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In more bad news for Theranos, study points to issues with fingerprick testing

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Rebecca Richards-Kortum, director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies

Fingerprick tests have gained notoriety lately thanks to Theranos' recent fallout. Now the method is coming under more scrutiny, as a new study shows that the technology can often yield conflicting results.

Scientists at Rice University found that different drops of blood from single fingerpricks on different subjects showed very different results for standard health measures such as hemoglobin, white blood cell counts and platelet counts. Researchers published their findings in a recent issue of The American Journal of Clinical Pathology.

The team saw that to get similar measures to a standard blood draw, which involves inserting a needle into an arm vein, they had to average the results of 6 to 9 drops of blood, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies, which carried out the research, told The New York Times.

"If you're going to take a fingerprick stick to get your measures, you need to be aware that you're sacrificing some accuracy," said Meaghan Bond, a Rice engineering student who worked on the study with Richards-Kortum, as quoted by the NYT.

Those words hit close to home for Theranos, which has come under fire recently for its fingerprick tests. Late last year, numerous reports cited the company for allegedly unsound testing practices. One article showed that a former Theranos lab employee filed a complaint with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) after top execs told employees to play down "major stability, precision and accuracy" issues with its blood-analysis devices.

The complaints did not fall on deaf ears. The CMS recently flogged the company for "deficient practices" at its Newark, CA-based testing lab that were uncovered during an inspection of the facility. Regulators gave Theranos a 10-day deadline to clean up shop but recently gave the company a one-week extension to fix the problems.

- read the NYT story (sub. req.)
- here's the study abstract

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