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 IDSA Releases Antibody Testing Primer

With a strong caution that antibody testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 not be used as a sole source of diagnosis, or for assumptions regarding immunity to new infections, the Infectious Diseases Society of America today released a primer on the current state of SARS-CoV-2 serology tests and the research and policy questions they raise.

Tests to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 vary widely in performance, and remain clinically unverified, opening possibilities for both false positive and false negative results. In addition, with little to no clinical evidence that having antibodies against the virus confers immunity among recovered patients, IDSA cautions the tests not be used as a basis for decisions on whether personal protective equipment – PPE – including masks -- are needed.

The tests could be useful in vaccine development for the identification of potential convalescent plasma donors and for urgently needed surveillance efforts, the primer says.

Policy questions regarding how information from the tests will be used, including what measures can be taken to protect the privacy of those tested, remain unresolved. In addition, questions on the effective approach to antibody testing, and developing tests that can be conducted with blood drawn from a finger prick, will be critical to optimizing use of the tests to determine prevalence of the virus.

The IDSA COVID-19 Antibody Testing Primer is available in IDSA’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

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