Quest Diagnostics, on Tuesday, came out with an important announcement in a push to broaden Covid-19 screening. The company announced that people can now avoid visiting their doctor’s office as they can purchase the coronavirus antibody test online. If you feel that you might have had the coronavirus or were exposed to it, then this test could help you know if you have developed antibodies to fight it.
Antibody test: what does it tell?
Quest, last week, announced the launch of its COVID-19 antibody test service for healthcare providers, which can be ordered on behalf of their patients. At the time, the company said that it expects to perform over 200,000 tests a day by mid-May.
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On Tuesday, the company announced that individuals can now purchase the coronavirus antibody test online. Following the announcement, Quest’s stock gained over 8% in premarket trading on Tuesday.
An antibody test reveals if a person has been exposed or had the coronavirus and has developed antibodies to fight it. A point to note is that a positive test does not guarantee immunity, but it does suggest that the person may have some level of protection if he or she comes across the virus again.
According to Quest, the antibody tests could prove helpful for those who don’t have Covid-19 or its symptoms, but believe they were exposed to the virus. Also, it is helpful for those who potentially had coronavirus and want to know if their body is generating antibodies to fight the disease.
“While the science on COVID-19 is evolving, testing for antibodies may identify people who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 and might have mounted an immune response to the virus. Our goal is to empower individuals and their physicians to make informed decisions about their risk of infection and of spreading the virus," Jay Wohlgemuth, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement.
How to get the coronavirus antibody test online
You can order the coronavirus antibody test online from GetQuestTest.com. It costs $119.
Talking of the process, Quest will first screen the patients online to determine if an antibody test is right for them or not. After they purchase the coronavirus antibody test online, they will be asked to visit one of Quest's 2,200 service centers across the U.S. to have their blood drawn.
The result of the test will be available within a day or two after the blood is drawn. Users will be able to access test results - on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop - in an easy-to-read report on MyQuest, which is Quest’s secure patient portal.
Quest lays down a few requirements for those who can take tests and precautions for those visiting its service centers.
“For the safety of our patients and employees, individuals must not have experienced symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 10 days; wear a face mask; and pass a contact-less temperature check,” the company says.
Further, Quest clarifies that the antibody testing is not for those with an active COVID-19 infection, including those with symptoms. The company says that patients confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 infection should not visit the service centers as they lack the equipment to “collect the necessary respiratory specimens for molecular COVID-19 diagnostic testing.”
To the patients who believe they may be infected with COVID-19, Quest requests that they contact their healthcare provider.
Quest says it is working with PWNHealth, which is an independent national network of physicians, for delivering the results and offering post-test telehealth support.
Is an antibody test enough?
Quest’s antibody test is made by Abbott, which claims that the test is 100% specific to coronavirus. This means that the test does not consider antibodies developed to fight any other infection apart from coronavirus. Moreover, the company claims that the test is 99.5% specific, meaning it will almost always identify if a person has been infected or not.
Quest is not the only company that is investing in antibody testing. U.S. officials and corporations across the country are also focusing on this testing, hoping that it will give people the confidence to return to work. On Monday, LabCorp started offering antibody testing at some of the Walgreens stores.
Additionally, such tests on a large scale could also help in reopening U.S. businesses and corporations. Some countries are even considering issuing the so-called immunity passports or risk-free certificates to those having antibodies against Covid-19. Such a certificate will allow them to return to work as the test shows they have protection against the virus.
New York is also heavily using antibody testing to get the real picture of how many people have been infected with the virus.
WHO (World Health Organization), however, is cautious on using antibody testing. The agency indicates that the person who tests positive for antibodies should not feel that they are immune.
“There is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate,’” the WHO says.
Over 100 antibody tests are available now that have not been reviewed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for accuracy and reliability. So far, the FDA has approved seven antibody tests, notes a report from dailymail.