Thousands given wrong results in STD tests in British
Columbia Thursday, October 30, 2003
CRANBROOK, British Columbia (AP) -- About 3,000 people got the wrong
results when they were tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia over an 18-month
period, health officials say.
Because of a faulty diagnostic machine in this southeastern British
Columbia town, test results for the two sexually transmitted diseases were
reversed, Alison Paine, a spokeswoman for the Interior Health Authority,
Officials were notified of the defective BD ProbeTec in July by the
manufacturer, Becton, Dickenson and Co. of Paramus, N.J., and immediately
stopped using it, Paine said.
"The machine was flipping the tests results," Paine said. "In other words,
if you were a positive, you would have received a negative reading. If you
were a negative, you would have received a positive reading."
About 3,000 people are believed to have been tested between Nov. 1, 2000,
and May 24, 2002, and about 83 were told they were clean when they
actually had one of the diseases. Most of the 83 have been contacted but
not all, Paine said.
The rest of the 3,000 were told they were infected and were given
treatment although they did not have the diseases, Paine said.
Cranbrook is about 120 miles northeast of Spokane, Wash.
Untreated, both diseases can lead to sterilization in women and increase
the risk of contracting HIV or AIDS in men and women, according to the Web
site of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Authorities said they didn't know how many people may have had sex with 83
test subjects who didn't know they had at least one of the diseases.
"We're very concerned about consequences," said Dr. Paul Hasselback, the
province's senior medical health officer for the region. "That's why it's
important that the information get out there."
A spokeswoman for the manufacturer could not be reached for comment
Wednesday by The Canadian Press, but a notice on the company's Web site
Aug. 22 stated that the defect was found in two machines out of 1,000
The notice blamed incorrect installation of "optical bundles" and said the
company was working with Health Canada to ensure a prompt recall.
"Neither the costs anticipated with this recall, nor the impact on BD's
ProbeTec ET instrument business, are expected to be significant," the
According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, chlamydia may be
one of the most dangerous sexually transmitted diseases among women.
It is easily cured with antibiotics but often goes undiagnosed because 75
percent of women and half the men that get it have no symptoms.
If left untreated, as many as 40 percent of infected women develop pelvic
inflammatory disease, which can cause severe abdominal pain and fever.
Gonorrhea can also go undetected in women and also can lead to pelvic
One in five women with pelvic inflammatory disease becomes infertile.
Untreated gonorrhea in men can cause painful or swollen testicles that can
lead to infertility. Gonorrhea can also affect the prostate and can lead
to scarring inside the urethra, making urination difficult.