Created: May 04, 2020 10:34 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new form of COVID-19 testing is now being offered in New Mexico.
The test, called a serology or antibody test, doesn’t indicate if someone is positive for the virus. Instead, it can tell if someone has had it in the past.
TriCore Reference Laboratories began offering that that blood test Monday.
The antibody test is a blood test that is designed to detect proteins in blood that someone could have developed from fighting the virus. However, health experts believe the results may not mean much, at least right now.
“So antibodies are proteins made by our immune system that helps prevent us, sometimes, from getting an illness again,” said Dr. David Grenache, Chief Scientific Officer for TriCore Reference Laboratories. “Sometimes those antibodies, give us really long term protection from infection.”
The blood test is designed to detect those antibodies. The catch, Dr. Grenache said, is that health experts still don’t know if those antibodies provide immunity at all.
“Right now, you can't use an antibody test result to decrease social distancing or change returned to work policies,” he said.
So what’s the point? Health officials and leaders said it could provide them with more knowledge, like how widespread the virus is or how many people were infected and asymptomatic.
“We want antibody tests and we want to do that surveillance,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan during her news conference April 30. “There’s a lot of scientific evidence, even using that, to think about the vaccine, using some of those strategies and techniques and trying to figure out immunity.”
TriCore is just one lab working toward those goals, using tests that have been through the emergency use authorization by the FDA.
Last week, state officials cautioned the use of other antibody tests without FDA involvement.
“The problem is with the newer antibody tests that are coming out, they can tell you that you have been infected when you haven’t or vice versa so you won’t really know anything differently once you get the result and there’s nothing really different you do when you get the results,” said Dr. Scrase, Secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department.
Until the immunity questions are answered, officials said those tests are better for gathering data. TriCore can now perform 300 tests a day.
Dr. Grenache said the TriCore tests will have to be ordered by a doctor, and they are for a specific type of person. The tests are not just to settle individual curiosity.
“One example is a person whose had COVID-19 and has recovered,” said Dr. Grenache. “This is the person whose blood can be collected, donated, and given to a person who's critically ill with COVID-19. It's, it looks like sometimes that the antibodies that are present in that blood of the donor help improve the symptoms of the really sick person who receives that product receives that blood.”
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