What you need to know about COVID-19 antibody testing


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, President Donald Trump said the Food and Drug Administration approved the first at-home COVID-19 testing kit, which tells you whether you have the virus right now or not.

People are, however, also wondering about antibody tests: tests show if you’ve already had the virus and have developed an immune response to it.

In Austin, Remedy has a drive-through testing site where you can get your blood drawn, get your results back in 48 hours and see if your body has antibodies to COVID-19.

Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch, CEO of Remedy, told KXAN they use Quest Diagnostics to test the samples.

“That’s one of the ways consumers can make sure they’re getting the highest quality,” he said.

So far, the FDA has approved a handful of antibody tests through its emergency approval process. Companies still waiting for that emergency approval can do the testing, but Dr. Gabrysch said, those have to be processed in a “high complexity” lab.

He said many finger stick tests do not yet have the emergency approval.

Gabrysch said that’s why you don’t yet see on-site finger stick tests that give you the results instantly. He expects that to change soon.

“For example, there are many finger stick antibody tests for things like HIV, mono, stuff like that, so we definitely have tests where people can be tested at the point of care,” he said.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said a testing of 3,000 people showed one in five people in New York City has the immunity.

Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, Adjunct Professor of Biology at Austin Community College and Chair and Professor of Texas State University’s Clinical Laboratory Science program, said it “kind of shows us that right now, maybe, more people have had it than we thought. That can be a good sign a obviously. But the limitation is, for the public to understand, we don’t know what that length of immunity means.”

He said viruses can mutate quickly.

“Even in two or three years, this virus may evolve enough to where you still have some protection, but it’s not total protection,” Rohde explained. “I mean, I’ll go to my grave saying that viruses are going to outthink us. They evolve and move too quickly.”

Rohde said the testing in New York was done at a highly-respected lab.

“Hopefully that will be quickly gathered up and shared across the country so that other public health labs can do that validation and get it running in other places,” he said

Rohde said it’s important to remember antibody testing isn’t the silver bullet that’ll end the COVID crisis.

“I still think you’re going to keep pushing those public health measures of physical distancing, hand washing, all those things,” he said.

Austin Public Health told KXAN Friday it’s looking at an antibody test that’s approved by the FDA and studying the reliability of the results.

Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott emphasized it’s important to remember antibody tests do not diagnose COVID-19.

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