To the editor:
We have been hearing many members of the public asking for an antibody test, only to be disappointed when learning that such a test is not available yet at LincolnHealth.
According to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah, there are now more than 150 antibody tests on the market, most of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Shah also cautioned about the usefulness of the data.
“It’s generally not advisable to get tests unless we know what to do with the results, and we don’t yet,” he said at Friday’s news briefing.
In simple terms, antibody tests, also called serology tests, show who has had a certain disease and recovered from it. The body makes antibodies in response to many illnesses, including COVID-19.
The tests searching for valuable antibodies come in two main forms: rapid tests and assays. The simplest rapid tests can be used at home and produce results in minutes, while assays require blood samples to be sent to a lab for analysis. Usually, assays are more accurate, but it takes much longer to get results.
Clearly, the quicker and more accurate the test, the more useful it becomes. A trusted test must be sensitive enough to pick up all the positive results, but exclusive enough that it does not accidentally pick up other coronaviruses known to cause human illness and mistake them for COVID-19.
Creating such a test takes time, and NorDx Laboratories and MaineHealth are evaluating antibody testing data to determine the most accurate and reproducible test for use here at LincolnHealth and across our system in order to provide you the best care.
We will continue to analyze data and, once a reliable test is available, your physician will let you know.
Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh, LincolnHealth
Board-certified in infectious diseases