As Moore and other cities across the state continue to ease restrictions, access to COVID-19 antibody testing has become more important.
According to the Mayo Clinic, antibody testing, also referred to as serology testing, involves a health care professional taking a blood sample from a patient to determine if the patient’s immune system has produced antibodies to fight COVID-19. If antibodies are detected, it is likely the patient has been exposed or previously infected by COVID-19.
Several Moore locations are currently offering antibody tests to residents, as some local health professionals say the tests could help give more insight into the virus’ presence in Moore. Norman Regional Health System announced last week it is offering antibody testing for $31, and is offering it at several locations. Results from the test will be available via the NRHS Patient Portal within three days, according to NRHS’ website.
Melissa Herron, manager of integrated marketing for NRHS, said antibody testing can be very beneficial to the community.
“Antibody testing will give insight into the prevalence of the coronavirus in our local community,” Herron said. “For an individual, it could also provide information to their healthcare provider that could help guide decisions on care and treatment. Norman Regional is proud to offer this testing to the community and for a very affordable price.”
Urgent cares in Moore such as Immediate Urgent Care, Access Medical Center and Classen Urgent Care are also offering antibody testing. All three locations are offering antibody testing for all patients interested in receiving a test.
Hussein Torbati, physician at Classen Urgent Care, said Classen has been performing around 300-400 antibody tests per week, and the antibody test they use can produce results in 15 minutes.
“We’ve found quite a few people who didn’t know they had it and came back with a positive test,” Torbati said.
However, as efforts to increase antibody testing continue, questions have arisen regarding the accuracy of the tests and how residents should respond to a positive result.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began rapidly spreading in March, the Federal Drug Administration began submitting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to allow certain laboratories to begin making and distributing their own antibody tests. As of early May, 12 different antibody tests have been authorized under an individual EUA by the FDA, according to the FDA website.
However, the FDA recently updated its guidelines and thresholds for issuing EUAs to private laboratories, citing evidence that their previous guidelines led to some laboratories producing and marketing fraudulent antibody test kits.
“In mid-March, it was critical for the FDA to provide regulatory flexibility for serology test developers, given the nature of this public health emergency and an understanding that the tests were not to be used as the sole basis for COVID-19 diagnosis, a fact that remains true today,” an FDA statement reads. “However, flexibility never meant we would allow fraud. We unfortunately see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans’ anxiety. Some test developers have falsely claimed their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized.”
The FDA has a list of approved antibody tests on its website, and Torbati said it’s important for patients to ask questions regarding the accuracy and validity of the test kit before receiving one.
“Patients need to make sure they ask questions about what kind of test kit their doctor is using and if they aren’t told that information, they probably shouldn’t trust it,” Torbati said.
There are small accuracy concerns among approved kits as well. Researchers are still studying some aspects of the virus, like the length of time that COVID-19 antibodies remain present after an infection has been cleared.
“It is possible for this test to give a “Not Present” result that is incorrect (false negative) in some people who have had exposure to or have had COVID-19,” Herron said. “A “Not Present” result may occur if the patient is tested early in their illness and their body has not had time to produce antibodies to the infection. This means they could have been exposed to or have had COVID-19 even though the test states ‘Not Present.’”
Despite some accuracy concerns, local health providers are encouraging residents to ask for an antibody test. While the presence of COVID-19 antibodies does not guarantee a patient is immune to potential reinfection, the FDA is encouraging patients to donate blood plasma in an effort to potentially help patients who are struggling to fight the virus.
Torbatti said he’s encouraging residents to seek out antibody tests, if possible, because it can help provide more information regarding the state of the virus in Cleveland County.
“We should do a whole lot more antibody testing,” Torbatti said. “We need to identify who has the antibodies and who could potentially fight the disease. The more we can identify who has good antibodies that could help us with immunity, the quicker we can get people back to work and the safer it will be for everyone.”
For more information on antibody testing, visit www.FDA.gov.
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