U.S. clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics announced Tuesday it has begun offering straight-to-consumer COVID-19 antibody testing for online purchase.
Individuals can purchase the COVID-19 Immune Response Test through the lab's online testing business, QuestDirect, for $119.
QuestDirect's website says there are some specific situations in which antibody testing may be useful:
- You've had a positive test for COVID-19 and it has been at least 7 days and you want to know if you have detectable levels of IgG antibodies
- You have not experienced a fever or felt feverish in the last 3 days
- You have not experienced new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 10 days: loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling weak or lethargic, lightheadedness or dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea, slurred speech, and/or seizures
But if you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last seven days, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, had or still have a fever in the last few days, or have had direct contact with someone with the virus in the last two weeks, QuestDirect does not recommend the test.
A news release from the lab says each test request is reviewed by a licensed physician. If it's determined that the request is appropriate, the physician orders a test, which requires the patient to schedule an appointment for an in-person blood draw at a Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Center.
According to the QuestDirect website, the only Indiana location where blood draw appointments for the COVID-19 Immune Response Test are available is in Fort Wayne at Lutheran Hospital.
The release says test results are usually available within one to two days of the blood draw appointment.
Antibody testing, sometimes referred to as serology testing, cannot be used to diagnose an individual with COVID-19. Instead, physicians use antibody tests to determine if patients have been exposed to the coronavirus and have subsequently developed antibodies, which are protective proteins produced by the body's immune system.
The World Health Organization said last week that there is "no evidence" a person who has antibodies to the new coronavirus is actually immune.
As NPR reported, the WHO pushed back against reports of some governments that have suggested that antibody tests could be used to give those who test positive "immunity passports," enabling them to return to work and traveling as normal.
The statement comes days after Chile announced it would begin issuing immunity cards that effectively act as passports, allowing travelers to clear security at airports with a document that purportedly shows they have recovered from the virus. Authorities and researchers in other countries — such as France and the United Kingdom — have expressed interest in similar ideas, while some officials in the U.S., such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, have mentioned it as one possible facet of a reopening strategy.
But the test isn't foolproof. False positives do occur.
The QuestDirect website notes that the COVID-19 Immune Response Test can sometimes detect antibodies from other coronaviruses, which can cause a false positive result. Quest Diagnostics warns that "positive or negative antibody tests do not rule out the possibility of COVID-19 infection," and "results also do not provide any information on whether you can spread the virus to others."
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