Multicentre comparison of quantitative PCR-based assays to detect SARS-CoV-2, Germany, March 2020

Euro Surveill. 2020 Jun;25(24):2001057. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.24.2001057.


Containment strategies and clinical management of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients during the current pandemic depend on reliable diagnostic PCR assays for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Here, we compare 11 different RT-PCR test systems used in seven diagnostic laboratories in Germany in March 2020. While most assays performed well, we identified detection problems in a commonly used assay that may have resulted in false-negative test results during the first weeks of the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; PCR; SARS-CoV-2; diagnostic test.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / genetics*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / instrumentation
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic Equipment*
  • Feces / virology
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Laboratories
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / instrumentation
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Covid-19 aAPC vaccine