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Clin Chem. 2014 Apr;60(4):667-74. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2013.217661. Epub 2014 Jan 24.

Screening method to evaluate point-of-care human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) devices for susceptibility to the hook effect by hCG β core fragment: evaluation of 11 devices.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology.



The predominant hCG variant in urine, hCG β core fragment (hCGβcf), has been demonstrated to cause false-negative results in qualitative point-of-care (POC) hCG devices. This is a major concern for healthcare professionals using POC pregnancy tests. We developed a screening method to evaluate qualitative POC hCG devices for their susceptibility to inhibition by hCGβcf. Using this method, we evaluated the performance of 11 commonly used devices.


A wide range of purified hCG and hCGβcf concentrations were mixed and tested on 2 POC devices. By use of those results, a screening method was defined and 9 additional POC devices were evaluated. Two solutions containing (a) 500 pmol/L (171 IU/L) intact hCG with 0 pmol/L hCGβcf and (b) 500 pmol/L intact hCG with 500 000 pmol/L hCGβcf were used to screen all POC devices.


The OSOM and Cen-Med Elite devices were found to be most susceptible to false-negative results due to hCGβcf. The BC Icon 20 and the Alere were the least susceptible. The remaining 7 were moderately affected. Devices that gave the strongest signal with hCGβcf alone were those that were least likely to show a hook effect.


The screening method put forth here can be used by device users and manufacturers to evaluate POC devices for inhibition by hCGβcf. Of 11 devices evaluated, only 2 have been identified that exhibit minimal to no susceptibility to hCGβcf.

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