US regulators on Sunday authorized emergency use of a coronavirus antibody test which is reportedly more than 99% accurate.
The new test addresses concerns about high false-positive rates that have plagued some of the first tests.
The test was reportedly made by Roche, a Swiss giant in the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries.
What is a Antibody test?
Antibodies are proteins created by the body’s immune system to fight invading threats, like viruses or bacteria.
Antibody testing is largely seen as a critical step to reopen the economy. Some have argued with the idea of using the tests to issue some form of “immunity passports,” which could possibly allow people with the antibodies to return to work.
Roche stated that the test has a 100% sensitivity rating and a 99.8% specificity rating, which is reportedly higher than some of the first antibody tests that were cleared for use in the US.
The results allegedly came from using more than 5,000 samples on its test.
The company reportedly said, Roche’s devices are able to run up to 300 tests per hour in an automated fashion taking an estimated time of 18 minutes to process a single test.
Another medical diagnostics giant, Abbott, has allegedly been using its antibody test for the past few weeks in the US. Abbot says its test is 99% accurate, based on testing about 1,000 samples.
Even if 100% accurate, antibody testing still faces several critical unknowns that may limit the practicality of these tests.
Having antibodies isn’t yet known for equaling protection. For most viruses, having antibodies means being protected from future infections.
Although, studies have yet to be done on the novel coronavirus proving this to be the case, and there have been some reports of potential reinfection.
Even if antibodies give a degree of protection from the virus, researchers do not know how long that protection will last. This could be another critical limitation if antibody protection lasts for months instead of years.
Finally, it is still unknown what percentage of the US or world population has already been infected with the coronavirus. Reliable and widespread antibody testing can help answer this question.