Antibody Blood Testing Could Detect if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Shifting the paradigm expanding access to testing

Re-thinking Who Gets Tested

Posted 04/06/2020

Current protocols offer testing for COVID-19 to people who are already having symptoms, or those who have been exposure to the virus.  This nasal swab test commonly used detects virus DNA in the nasal cavity and enables us to triage and isolate infected individuals appropriately.

For those of us without symptoms, social distancing has been the rule, but we have limited experience on effectiveness of this strategy. Data from Iceland showed us that up to 50% of coronavirus cases can be asymptomatic.   Even those who develop symptoms later may have spread the virus already for 2-14 days without even knowing. 

Perhaps it’s time to re-think the current strategy of largely denying COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic individuals.  The rationale against drive-through testing, as implemented in Germany and South Korea, has been the limited availability of test kits and the uncertain impact of false negatives.

However, several lab companies are now shipping test kits some with early FDA clearance and for validity testing.  If our goal is to limit exposing particularly vulnerable high-risk individuals to COVID-19, then everyone exposed to these populations should know their infectious status ASAP.

In particular, COVID-19 immunoglobulin testing should be offered to all asymptomatic people who may encounter those at high risk.  This will not impact local healthcare facilities who should continue nasal swab PCR testing symptomatic and high-risk individuals.  But, for many of us in these groups, knowing exposure status will empower us to make safer more educated decisions regarding contact.

The global impact of such an approach will ultimately reduce spread while strengthening our resources to assist our vulnerable population.  Arguments against such an approach include added cost, risks to healthcare workers, false negative results, and risk of perhaps personal recklessness after receiving negative results.  In my opinion, we are at the tipping point and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The time is now for a paradigm shift in the way we approach testing for COVID-19.   I believe strongly that all asymptomatic individuals in high impact groups should have access to a COVID-19 blood antibody testing now.   Tests such as the one being developed by Vibrant America detects IgG (past exposure) and IgM (recent exposure) antibodies.  Most COVID-19 antibody tests are currently in limited production collecting data for validity and under various stages of approval.  Tests need to be fast-tracked and available ASAP for people serving and supporting high risk vulnerable populations.  And this should not interfere with current testing protocols followed for symptomatic individuals in our hospitals and urgent care clinics. 04/06/2020

Patrick R Yassini, MD ABIHM

Medical Director and Provider, Peak Health Group

  • You currently have no symptoms of infection such as fever or cough
  • You have not been exposed to anyone known or suspected of COVID-19 infection
  • You are a member of a high-impact group (for example, one of the following)

High Risk

You are at high risk of complication because of advanced age, heart or lung disease, or immuno-compromised.

Caregiver

As a key caregiver, you have no choice but to be in close contact to with individual at high risk.

HealthCare

You work in the healthcare setting and therefore are exposed routinely to sick individuals of unknown COVID Status.

Business

A worker in an essential business, you are routinely exposed to the general population many of them symptomatic

In some situations, knowing your COVID-19 exposure status could make a big impact on life.  

If this pertains to you, we will draw and process your blood for COVID-19 antibody testing.

Sample will be sent to Vibrant America for this testing until our limited supply of lab kits are exhausted.

Remember, if you have symptoms of infection, then you will not be tested as part of this project.
You must consult your doctor or go to an emergency/urgent care facility for suspected COVID-19 infections.

We have been experiencing high demand.
No longer are we able to draw and process samples free of charge.
$50 draw fee will cover staff time & supplies

We are still waving the medical consultation fee

Vibrant America is still NOT yet submitting this test for payment by insurance.

Payment must be made directly to the lab in order to release results.

For COVID-19 ImmuneCheck Vibrant will charge you $ 149

Why Not Testing Everyone?

The truth is COVID-19 testing is not being offered routinely to healthy asymptomatic individuals unless you happen to be a healthcare worker or first responder.  Here are the reasons behind the current paradigm and my comments.

None of the COVID-19 testing available for and used in hospital settings are being diverted for this project.  This is a new antibody blood test and not the nasal swab PCR test routinely used in the acute care setting.  The only impact this project will have on critically ill hospitalized patients is that this may speed up the availability of tests by expanding the data collection funnel.

Even though there is no treatment available if positive, the results are still valuable.  It is just more piece of information for some of us to consider in making the difficult decisions regarding contact with vulnerable populations in our lives.

Clearly, we must use caution at all times when contacting other particularly vulnerable people in the community regardless of our test results.  There is an ongoing risk of exposure so we should not see a negative test result as a false sense of protection. However, the presence of IgG antibodies tested in this assay weeks after infection will likely be protective.

At the time of this writing, there are only two COVID-19 tests that I could find which are fully approved by the FDA.  Several well-established clinical labs have developed tests which are in various stages of validation.  With this project, we are supporting the data collection process needed for FDA clearance so tests production can be ramp up for mass availability sooner.

We have clear understanding of the antibody response from other similar infections.  We know initially with exposure, IgM peaks and resolves after about two weeks.  After that, we know the predominant antibody is IgG which remains even after symptoms resolve and is considered protective.  Only with expanding data collection will we be able to correlate COVID-19 specific antibody profile with its clinical course.

This pandemic has had and will continue to have a devastating economic impact.  If knowing information about antibody status empowers some of us to make better exposure decisions, then asymptomatic spread may be dampened slowing spread and speeding recovery as a nation.  

  • Antibodies have been found to be a highly sensitive biomarkers in infectious disease diagnosis, previous studies on SARS, MERS and more recently the ones on SARS-CoV2 have shown IgM antibodies to appear about the 3rd day from infection and IgG antibodies appear after 8 days. Profiling an individual’s antibody response is the only way to determine infections with few or no symptoms.
  • Studies in China, the country of origin, have shown that antibody tests have 100% sensitivity in COVID19 disease population. The serology shows the modulation of the immune system within days of infection and patterns from Day 0 to day 5 have been documented.

You will be redirected to a page to schedule your test online.