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COVID-19 Antibody Tests Proliferate, but What Do They Show?

Trials Recruiting, Medical Centers Develop Own Tests

Despite the uncertainties over antibody testing, many efforts are still being guided by this strategy.

The NIH is recruiting volunteers to its antibody testing study and suggests that immunity is “likely” for those who test positive.

In addition, several large medical centers have developed their own antibody tests, including Stanford, the Yale New Haven Hospital, and the Mayo Clinic.

The Stanford test detects two types of antibodies: IgM, which is made early in an immune response and usually wanes quickly, and IgG, which rises more slowly after infection but usually persists longer.

“There’s limited data out of China and Europe showing that this appears to be the response pattern followed with this virus,” commented Thomas Montine, MD, PhD, professor and chair of pathology at Stanford University. “But no one has had this long enough to know how long after infection the antibodies persist,” he added.

“There is enormous demand for serologic testing,” said William Morice, MD, PhD, president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. “At this time, serology testing needs to be prioritized for efforts to identify individuals in areas where potential immunity is key ― supporting healthcare workers, screening for potential plasma donors, and helping advance the most promising vaccine candidates.”

During a recent webinar with the Association for Value-Based Cancer Care, the largest physician-owned oncology-hematology practice in the country, the president, Lucio Gordan, MD, said his organization was looking into antibody testing for staff. “They wanted to see how many have been exposed,” he said, although “what it means is uncertain.”

When Medscape Medical News checked back with him a few weeks later, Gordan, president of Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute, reported that no progress had been made.

We unfortunately have not been able to test yet, due to concerns with reliability of kits. We are waiting for a better solution so we can reassess our strategy,” he said.

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