State officials consider antibody tests for COVID-19

Coronavirus

A scientist presents an antibody test for coronavirus in a laboratory of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) at the InfectoGnostics research campus in Jena, Germany, Friday, April 3, 2020. An international team of researchers with the participation of the Jena Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) has developed a rapid antibody test for the new coronavirus. By means of a blood sample, the test shows within ten minutes whether a person is acutely infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (IgM antibody) or already immune to it (IgG antibody). The strip test is manufactured by the diagnostics company Senova in Weimar and is already on the market. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

A new blood test is being considered to know if a person was ever infected with coronavirus, the officials at the Department of Health officials had previously shared reservations about the test by saying there is a possibility of misleading results, but their approach might be changing. 

The Lt. Governor, Josh Green, said a blood test to find COVID-19 antibodies could answer whether a person built an immunity to the disease and is now healthy to work or visit Hawaii.

“We’re now talking about antibody tests, though none of them have been finally approved and are not perfect yet,” Green said. “We are looking very carefully with our team at DOH, other public safety officials to find out if can we do testing to show that people have antibodies and therefore are immune.”

He said this type of test could be part of the vetting process for visitors, for whenever Hawaii is ready to jump-start its tourism industry.

The test would be a finger-prick and the drop of blood could tell if a person was exposed to the virus within minutes.  

Last month, Department of Health officials had concerns the antibody test may give false negatives as it takes time for antibodies to show.

However, Dr. Bruce Anderson, director of the DOH said they are now looking forward to a blood test that could show if a person is recovered from the virus and has built defenses against it.

Dr. Anderson said, “When we do get the antibody test in place, when we could tell if someone’s been infected in the past, then I think we will have a better handle in the extent of the disease in Hawaii and will help shape our policies.”

Green said soon the blood test could be widely used for people to know their history of exposure to viruses.

“As we have a good test, that could be very, very, valuable not only for people coming into Hawaii but globally,” Green said. “I think this is part of the new, I think it’s very likely people will want to know what their antibody status is for infectious diseases.”

The state’s laboratory is still only testing through nose swabs for COVID-19. While the Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. and Clinical Labs of Hawaii said they are following the list of FDA approvals and they are working closely with vendors, but the antibody tests are not yet ready for the public.

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