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Covid-19 antibody test still very unreliable says UCT infectious diseases prof

10 July 2020 1:33 PM
Tags:
COVID-19
antibody test

Prof Mendelson says the SARS-CoV-2 antibody test is not the same as an HIV antibody test which is a far more reliable marker.

Across the globe, many people are anxious to learn whether they may have been infected with the coronavirus in the past – with the hope that it would offer some immunity in the future.

WIth Covid-19 tests being limited is antibody testing the way to go?

Lester Kiewit chats to Professor of Infectious Diseases at UCT, Marc Mendelson about the usefulness of antibody testing.

It warrants further discussion and warrants education about the place of antibody tests and whether they may be of benefit or not.

Professor Marc Mendelson, Infectious Diseases - UCT

He says it is important to distinguish between these antibody tests, often called rapid tests, and the Covid-19 test conducted with a nose swab called a PCR test.

The PCR test detects the presence of the virus in a person and can be found a few days before they become symptomatic or will be present when they are already ill, he explains.

In contrast, an antibody is a protein that humans produce as an immune response against the virus.

In contrast to the PCR, antibodies take time to be produced and only appear in the blood in any reliable way about 10 to 14 days after the symptoms start.

Professor Marc Mendelson, Infectious Diseases - UCT

This occurs once the virus has already been shed from the airways, he says.

It does not tell us much about the infectiousness of the person but tells us if the person has had the coronavirus previously. It does not help us with the acute diagnosis in terms of the tests that we have at the present time.

Professor Marc Mendelson, Infectious Diseases - UCT

Would knowing one's status, whether one has had the infection or not, be helpful asks Kiewit?

Mendelson says there are a number of problems with this. He says the SARS-CoV-2 antibody test is not the same as, for example, an HIV antibody test which is a far more reliable marker.

He says the Covid-19 antibody tests are far less reliable. Even if one does have antibodies in the blood if the test is positive, it is uncertain whether that means one is immune from reinfection, he says. And that is also largely influenced by the different kinds of antibody tests available at present.

Unfortunately, at the current time with what we know at the moment, and we definitely need more studies, we can't say that having an antibody test even if it is positive can give that much peace of mind at the present time.

Professor Marc Mendelson, Infectious Diseases - UCT

Listen to the interview below:


10 July 2020 1:33 PM
Tags:
COVID-19
antibody test

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