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Is a coronavirus antibody test available in B.C.?

Last Updated Aug 5, 2020 at 10:29 am PDT

A doctor shows a negative quick coronavirus test in a tent set up at the entrance of a hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Venezuela is going about testing its citizens unlike any other country: Mass deployment of a rapid blood antibody test from China that checks for proteins that develop a week or more after someone is infected, while using on a much smaller scale the gold-standard nasal swab exam that detects the virus from the onset. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Summary

Health Canada has approved an antibody test, but the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has not

No proof antibodies prevent coronavirus reinfection: BCCDC

Study found low rate of infection, potential for second wave in B.C.

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

Sandy said her husband was sick in mid-March and thinks he might have had COVID-19.

“Are antibody tests available right now?” Sandy asked, referring to the test, also known as a serology test, that can determine whether someone has previously been infected with the coronavirus.

Answer:

Serology tests are not currently available to the general public in B.C., but the nasal-swab test used to determine if someone is currently infected are.

In May, Health Canada approved an antibody test developed by an Italian company, but it has not been approved for widespread use in B.C.

B.C. researchers are studying antibody tests to “determine whether they are useful for people in this province,” according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The researchers are evaluating two types of antibody testing: lab-based high-volume testing, which requires a test of blood collected via a needle, and point-of care testing, which requires only a finger prick for blood and can provide results in 30 minutes or less.

Both formats can determine if someone has recently had the virus, including those who had only mild symptoms.

The BCCDC has not said when antibody tests may be widely available in the province.

People with antibodies may have some protection against the coronavirus, but the BCCDC says that has yet to be proven.

“An immediate priority for antibody testing is to better understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 infection in B.C.,” the BCCDC says.

A study released by the BCCDC, UBC and LifeLabs in mid-July tested samples from a random group of people who were already getting blood tests in March for other reasons.

The study estimated eight times as many people had been sick with COVID-19 than officially confirmed. But it also found that less than one per cent of the province’s population had antibodies – meaning B.C. had successfully controlled the spread of the virus, which makes it vulnerable to a second wave due to a lack of herd immunity.

“We do not have sufficient immunity in the population to prevent subsequent waves, and it may not even just be a single second wave. We may be looking at undulations,” said the BCCDC’s Dr. Danuta Skowronski when the study was released.

“We have a long way to go before we’re there, which means it really comes down to the individual and collective measures of British Columbians to continue to keep this virus at bay.”

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