Viral and antibody testing for COVID-19

After several weeks of sheltering at home, isolation and quarantine, we are all wondering how we can safely resume normal activities. In these concerning times, it is important that we rely only on the most accurate scientific information.

One question many of us have is whether we are, or have been, infected with COVID-19. This is understandable because, as many of you will have read, up to 20% of people infected with this virus will have no symptoms and most others will have very mild symptoms, which can be difficult to recognize as anything other than a mild cold, pink eye (conjunctivitis) or an upset stomach.

Antibody testing and COVID-19

Tests are now being approved that are able to determine whether your body has developed antibodies that make you immune to COVID-19. These tests are known as antibody or serology tests and they require a sample of blood. Antibody tests are different from the current tests used to detect whether someone has an active COVID-19 infection. These tests, called antigen tests, require a throat or nose swab.

Antibody testing should demonstrate evidence of a past infection. This will be critical as we begin to re-open our businesses and schools, and thus, our economy. We need a test that is both highly sensitive (accurate) and highly specific to COVID-19 and does not “cross react” with other viruses. We have all been exposed to other coronaviruses during the course of our lives. If the antibody test cannot determine whether we have antibodies to COVID-19 or another coronavirus, it will result in a high incidence of false positive tests. That is, you will be led to believe you are immune to COVID-19, when in fact you are not.

Antibody testing in the United States and Canada

You may have read that some antibody tests are currently being marketed in the United States. At this time, none of those tests have been approved by Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Several may be listed on the FDA website, but they have not yet been validated by the FDA. They have been given a temporary license to sell the tests in the United States before they have been validated as accurate.

Unfortunately, it has been widely reported that many of these tests have proven to be inaccurate. Health Canada has taken a different approach and has asked us to wait for their experts to verify the claimed accuracy of each test before deploying them widely to our population.

For more information on COVID-19 antibody testing, please see the articles and images below:

Fears of ‘Wild West’ as COVID-19 blood tests hit the market
What are the chances?

*Images by Lucas Wheeler

Antibody testing at Copeman Healthcare

I would like to assure you that Copeman Healthcare and TELUS Health are actively pursuing both viral antigen testing and antibody testing strategies. However, we want to ensure the accuracy of these tests first to protect you, your loved ones and our community. As soon as we have more information regarding these tests we will share it with you.