Updated: Oct 23
🤓I am very passionate about home testing and virtual healthcare so when I started research for this post, I initially wanted to let you know where you can buy your ‘At home Coronavirus antibody testing’ pack in the UK. But after reading more I’ve taken a different stance on this. Why?
😞 Abbott, the manufacturer of a coronavirus antibody test, has confirmed their tests should not be taken at home using a finger prick sample. Their tests are being sold by several online healthcare providers in the UK for use at home.
FYI: The official name of the coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2 virus (from now will be referred to as the coronavirus). The coronavirus causes coronavirus disease aka COVID-19.
💡 Why take a antibody test?
The coronavirus antibody test can detect if a person has already been infected with the virus and has since recovered. Depending on the accuracy this type of test can confirm whether you have been infected.
The test detects whether you have antibodies (IgG) to the virus. This test is more accurate when taken at least 3 weeks after you have symptoms of COVID-19.
The antibody test should not be used if you currently have or are suspected to have COVID-19.
Antibodies are formed by your immune system when you are exposed to an infectious agent like a virus. If you have developed antibodies this means that your body has developed a natural way to attack the virus if you are exposed again. This does not mean that you wouldn’t become unwell, but it could mean that your symptoms might be milder than the first time you had the virus. Additionally, viruses mutate. Your antibodies could provide some defence against any future mutations of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, so much is still unknown and the antibodies may not offer much protection at all! The virus and its behaviour is still being studied and researched.
Public Health England have evaluated coronavirus antibody tests by Roche and Abbott (for further information see link at the bottom of the page).
👩🔬About the Coronavirus antibody test by Abbott
The SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay antibody test manufactured by Abbott is being sold by a number of healthcare providers as an ‘At home’ test which uses a blood sample taken by finger prick (a capillary blood sample). The healthcare providers selling the ‘at home’ test confirm that the test is CE marked and processed by laboratory professionals. Most of the providers also give information about the accuracy of the antibody test (specificity and sensitivity) using a capillary sample. This accuracy data was reported by independent laboratory professionals who performed tests using capillary samples. Overall, they report is a slight reduction in accuracy of the test when using the capillary sample compared with the venous sample. The At Home tests are priced between £60-100.
💉The fact sheet for healthcare providers on the Abbott website does not specify whether the blood sample should be taken from the vein or could be taken from a finger prick. Capillaries are much smaller than veins so amount of blood collected for analysis by the laboratory is tiny compared with the sample obtained from the vein.
On 21st May 2020, The Pharmaceutical Journal confirmed a statement from Abbott stating the test “has been validated for use with a venous blood sample that is taken by a healthcare provider”. “The test is not intended for use as a home test and it should not be conducted with a finger stick blood sample,”. The article confirms the manufacturer “does not have any data to support that finger-stick blood samples can be used with our test”.
Today is 23rd May 2020, I can not find a similar statement on the Abbott website. The Pharmaceutical Journal is a reputable publication by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society; a reputable professional organisation.
Based on the information from the Pharmaceutical Journal, the Abbott test received its CE mark based on the data they submitted which did not include data on capillary samples.
🤔In my opinion it's more important to know when you have coronavirus disease at the time you are infected. This would be done by taking an ANTIGEN test which is a completely different test. When you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 you can then prevent transmitting the virus to other people by staying at home.
Since we do not know whether having antibodies to the virus would significantly reduce the symptom profile or severity of symptoms, the main benefits of taking this test is for Public Health purposes (to confirm the number of people affected, potentially conduct retrospective contact tracing, conduct prospective research on those who have been infected). To do this your data would be collected and shared with the relevant research bodies. Employers might use Antibody testing as part of an employee risk assessment to have an idea of who has some immunity although distancing and protective measures will still need to be complied with. Individuals may be curious to know if they have been infected or want confirmation that they have been infected in the past.
Overall I would only recommend taking the antibody test if you are going to use the result for a specified purpose.
Think about why you want to do the test.
Regardless, it's important that any test taken is done properly so you can get the most accurate result possible and be assured about its quality.
If you decide to take an antibody test, look to see if it’s an Abbott test. If the test is manufactured by Abbott, do not use the finger prick but get a venous sample done. This is how the test was intended to be used and should give a more accurate result. A number of healthcare providers can recommend services where you can go to get the blood test done and some can refer you for home phlebotomy services if available. I have used Medichecks in the past (on a number of occasions) and have had a nurse visit my home to take blood each time.
With all tests you will be able to obtain details about its accuracy (sensitivity and specificity).
I must emphasise that having a positive antibody test (i.e. you have antibodies to the virus) does not mean that you can't get COVID-19 again if you are exposed to the coronavirus.
If you have a positive antibody test, you should still continue to take steps to minimise your risk and exposure to the virus by maintaining good hand hygiene and following the 2m ‘physical distance’ measures.
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Press release from Department of Health 'National testing coordinator warns against unapproved antibody tests'
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First photo by Oby Onyeador
Second photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski
Infographic from United Nations COVID-19 response
All on Unsplash