On Thursday, the not-for-profit research organisation Cochrane released their report on the efficacy of antibody testing in detecting COVID-19. As an internationally-recognised institution, Cochrane’s verdict has been eagerly awaited – and with the rise of antibody testing around Europe that we wrote about last week, this report could have serious ramifications for a number of governments.
The headline finding from the report is that only 30% of those with COVID-19 received a positive test within the first week of infection. A number of explanations have been advanced. One explanation is that it is simply too early for the body to have created a detectable number of antibodies. Yet, if we wait until the third week of infection, 90% of infected people return a positive test, so there is no doubt that the tests work. The problem is that the tests aren’t as effective as antigen tests – like those which can be obtained from the NHS here – in identifying whether you currently have the virus in the early stages.
But is this really all that shocking? Antibody testing was never meant to replace antigen testing because it serves a different purpose. As viral immunologist Zania Stamataki explains, antigen testing cannot indicate how far along the patient might be in their fight against COVID-19, cannot identify those that have had the virus but are no longer infected and therefore cannot aid in monitoring levels of immunity within a country. It is also worth noting that as of right now, there are no rapid antigen tests available, whereas there are a number of such antibody tests – one of which is available for purchase on our website. This means that whilst results in the first week or so might not be incredibly reliable, antibody tests still represent the most convenient option for the public.
So: using an antibody test to identify whether you have the virus immediately after the onset of symptoms is perhaps not the most effective response. However, antibody testing should always be regarded as only one aspect of a workplace’s procedure for detecting infection. This is why Lab Solutions’ Return2Work, our COVID-19 response kit, comes with an external thermometer. If an employee displays symptoms, identifying whether they coincide with a high temperature will give a good initial indication of their health. If a high temperature is discovered, it should be protocol to send the employee home to self-isolate for at least seven days. At this point, equipping your employee with a number of antibody tests remains crucial. This well help them more closely monitor their situation and make an informed decision on when it is safe for them to return to work.
For more information on our COVID-19 product range, visit our website.