’Highly accurate’ antibody increasingly available, but doctors warn against misinformation

’Highly accurate’ antibody increasingly available, but doctors warn against misinformation
(CDC)

SEATTLE — The Polyclinic is now offering a highly effective antibody test that comes from Abbott Labs that will tell you within 24 hours if you’ve already had COVID-19.

However, doctors say there’s still a lot we don’t know about the antibody, and it should not bring people a false sense of security.

KIRO 7’s Deedee Sun went through the process Wednesday to figure out what you need to know.

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You have to get approval from your doctor to order the test. Though Public Health has no restrictions on who can get it — so anyone who had COVID-19 symptoms at some point and is wondering whether they’ve already had the virus should be able to get it.

The blood draw takes just a minute but needs to happen in person, as it requires a vial of blood. If you’re getting it at the Polyclinic location at the Madison Center, your blood gets processed at its labs right there.

“People are interested,” said Albert Cabrera, lab director at the Polyclinic. “It’s on everybody’s minds right now,” he said.

The test checks for a specific IgG antibody your immune system produces when you have COVID-19.

Cabrera said it is an emergency-use authorized by the FDA.

This is the same test from Abbott Labs first discussed by UW Virology on April 17. The University of Washington’s Virology Lab independently verified the test and determined the antibody test is nearly 100 % accurate.

“That’s one of the reasons why we went live with this test,” CabreraCabera said. There are hundreds of other antibody tests — some of them wildly inaccurate — flooding the market.

The cost of the test is still unclear. The Polyclinic sent Sun a message that said it’s still being determined if insurance companies would cover the cost. If the antibody test is not covered, a test at the Polyclinic will cost $57.

Public Health does not have any restrictions on who should get the test, so anyone who is wondering, “Did I have coronavirus?” is eligible.

“And that’s helpful,” said Dr. Tony Trinh, an infectious disease specialist at the Polyclinic.

However, he emphasizes having the antibodies does not mean you are immune.

“A lot of the risks of this test are the misinterpretation of it. A lot of people are eager to find a sense if they’re immune or protected,” Trinh said.

But he says not all antibodies offer protection from a disease — and we don’t know enough to say if this one will prevent you from getting sick again.

“Some antibodies can be associated with protection and immunity, but not all antibodies. So it’s important to not confuse this particular test with a test for immunity or protection. The intention of this test is to see if you’ve had it in the past, and the past being greater than 10 to 14 days,” Trinh said.

It means even if you have the antibodies, you should not change your behavior — keep social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands.

“Exactly. And that’s really important,” Trinh said.

So why get the test? For one, the data goes to King County Public Health, and can help officials make policy recommendations.

The Polyclinic said they’ve tested 836 people as of Thursday morning, with 65 positive (7.9%).

“It’s all for surveillance. It’s a public health reason why we need to do this,” Cabrera said.

And another good reason is that people just want to know.

“It really fulfills curiosity,” Trinh said. “It’s the thing they can be at least be empowered by in something that everyone is seemingly powerless against,” he said.

The Polyclinic is running about 130 tests every day since they launched last week but can run about 8,000 tests a day.

The test is also available through UW Medicine, and people can also ask their providers for a blood draw to send to labs at UW Medicine.