Imperfect Tests Aren't Useless

Testing is the linchpin to understanding COVID-19’s spread—but both genetic tests—which check for active infections—and antibody tests—which identify past infection—have proven unreliable.

Tests are hard to get right. The best ones strikes a very delicate balance between sensitivity and specificity. “Making a test more specific can make it less sensitive and vice versa — If you cast a wider net, you can’t be as picky about what you catch,” explains Umair Irfan.
But even flawed tests can be useful in tracking the overall spread of the virus through populations because studies can account for testing imperfections.

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