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The COVID-19 pandemic sparked rapid development of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. However, emerging variants pose the risk for target dropout and false-negative results secondary to primer/probe binding site (PBS) mismatches. The Agena MassARRAY SARS-CoV-2 Panel combines RT-PCR and MALDI-TOF mass-spectrometry to probe for five targets across N and ORF1ab genes, which provides a robust platform to accommodate PBS mismatches in divergent viruses. Herein, we utilize a deidentified dataset of 1,262 SARS-CoV-2-positive specimens from Mount Sinai Health System (New York City) from December 2020 through April 2021 to evaluate target results and corresponding sequencing data. Overall, the level of PBS mismatches was greater in specimens with target dropout. Of specimens with N3 target dropout, 57% harbored an A28095T substitution that is highly-specific for the alpha (B.1.1.7) variant of concern. These data highlight the benefit of redundancy in target design and the potential for target performance to illuminate the dynamics of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

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