COVID-19 Antibody Testing Offered At Perry Hall Patient First

Grant Boone
June 28, 2020

Antibody testing might help determine whether people have had COVID-19, but its effectiveness depends on when the test occurs, according to an analysis published Thursday by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Also, most of those tested had been admitted to hospital, offering no insight into how well the tests could detect antibodies in the majority of people with milder symptoms.

Cochrane said that of the 54 studies it looked at that covered almost 16,000 samples, 89% had a high risk of bias based on how participants were selected, since they were unlikely to match patient populations in clinical practice.

Clinical Director Dr Binoy Chattuparambil was pleased to add antibody testing to the Cayman Islands' arsenal in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Late this week, MUSC Health-Lancaster reported that it had five COVID-19 in-patients and two additional possible in-patient cases. "However, the design, execution and reporting of studies of the accuracy of Covid-19 tests requires considerable improvement, and action needs to be taken to ensure that all results of test evaluations are available in the public domain and not withheld by test manufacturers to ensure we can provide the best estimates of the accuracy for these tests".

Antibody testing, also known as immunoglobulin testing, detects antibodies in the blood which are developed as part of the body's immune system defense against viruses and diseases. The review identified data from 25 commercial COVID-19 tests, a fraction of the roughly 300 such tests that exist.

Boris Johnson has described coronavirus antibody tests as potentially being "game changing" in the fight against the pandemic.

The health workers conducting the tests will be in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and also follow all precautions against COVID-19. Whilst detecting current infection is usually done using swab tests within the first 5 days of illness, they may miss infection and are not available to all.

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"For numerous studies, we could never find out how many patients were included in them", he said.

Through the antibody tests, the presence of the antibodies immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) can be detected.

Those who test positive for the antibody tests will be moved to Covid Care Centres and others will be sent to quarantine. Appointments are not needed for antibody testing, which is available from 8:00 a.m.to 10:00 p.m. every day of the week. There was insufficient data to compare the accuracy of various tests, they said.

The researchers plan to update their review over the next few months to provide a more complete summary of the research evidence as it accumulates.

Since antibody testing does not determine whether an individual has an active or past infection, as it can not differentiate between IgM and IgG antibodies, everyone who tests positive for antibodies to COVID-19 must also take a PCR test. They found that all tests showed low sensitivity (the ability to detect disease) during the first week after symptoms (detecting less than 30% of cases of disease), rising in the second week and reaching their highest values in the third week. The tests only wrongly diagnosed COVID-19 in 1% to 2% of people without COVID-19. But research by pediatricians in Britain concluded that if medical care is delayed - particularly when a child appears seriously ill - "the unintended consequences of the lockdown will do more harm and claim more children's lives than COVID-19".

The COVID-19 Antibody Test used at Patient First tests to see if the blood has antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics and head of the Test Evaluation Research Group at the University of Birmingham, commented: "We've analysed all available data from around the world and discovered clear patterns telling is that timing is vital in using these tests". The studies were often small, did not use the most reliable methods, and their results were often incomplete, the analysis found. "All we know is how many samples were tested". Cochrane, a British-based journal that reviews research evidence, looked at 54 studies that sought to measure the reliability of the antibody blood tests. Use them at the wrong time and they don't work. In their not-yet-peer-reviewed paper posted on Friday on medRxiv, the researchers also said they found the virus in Barcelona wastewater from January 15 of this year, 41 days before the first case was officially reported there.

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