Expert warns against buying antibody tests

02.04.2020 - 05:35
Expert warns against buying antibody tests
Antibody tests are not a reliable way to diagnose Covid-19, says infection disease specialist
Shahin Gaini, an infectious disease specialist at the National Hospital

There are huge financial interests in the production of protective equipment and testing kits for Covid-19, and it is hard to say which ones work and which do not.

This is the view of Shahin Gaini, an infectious disease specialist at the National Hospital, who warns against buying and using the so-called antibody tests currently flooding the black market – not only online but there are also rumours that they are being sold here in the Faroe Islands.

He says these tests are not a reliable form of diagnosis for Covid-19, and many of them are likely to be of a poor quality.

False sense of security

Antibodies are produced in our bodies to fight off microorganisms which the body recognises as alien, such as bacteria or viruses. As it takes a few days for these antibodies to develop, an antibody test can easily create a false sense of security.

“For instance, if I was infected two days ago and I took an antibody test today hoping to find out if I had been infected with the coronavirus, the test may well come out negative because I had not yet produced enough antibodies,” explains Gaini.

Dubious quality

Not only are antibody tests an unreliable way of testing for Covid-19; there is also a large degree of uncertainty regarding the quality of the antibody tests on the black market.

“Many companies and individuals are trying to cash in on this coronavirus crisis, and it is difficult to determine whether the tests available on the black market are the real deal or just something produced in a toy factory,” he says.

“Many of them have not undergone the systematic checks that live up to the standards of health authorities here in the Nordic region, and we can in no way vouch for the quality of these tests.”

Uncertainty regarding immunity

Since they test people’s immunity to diseases, antibody tests can, however, be a reliable way of testing whether a person has had Covid-19 and has now developed immunity to it.

However, says Gaini, this is of little use in this context, as there remains a great degree of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19.

“There is inconclusive evidence on whether we actually develop full immunity to Covid-19, so again we have the risk of gaining a false sense of security.”

He adds that perhaps in a week or a month, when scientists know more about Covid-19, it may be safer to use antibody tests for diagnostic purposes, provided they are of a good quality, but at this point it is not advisable.


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