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the coronavirus crisis

French health ministry warns of new coronavirus variant that may be able to evade PCR tests

Researchers at the Institut Pasteur are investigating whether a newly-identified coronavirus variant in the Brittany region of France may be more difficult for standard PCR tests to detect, the French health ministry said Tuesday.

The variant was reportedly first detected in a cluster of eight cases at a hospital in Lannion. Despite the patients displaying conventional COVID-19 symptoms, PCR tests were reportedly not able to pick up the presence of the virus. Reports The Local, Brittany has maintained one of France's lower infection rates, but the recent discovery has raised concerns that some cases were missed. Of course, it's certainly possible the errors could have been related to the tests themselves, rather than any genetic modifications to the virus.

The good news is that the ministry said the variant does not appear to be more transmissible or cause more severe cases of COVID-19, though at this stage, assumptions, including any about detectability, are likely unwise. Read more at France24 and The Local.