Antibody test has scientists optimistic they can detect COVID-19 more easily
A new antibody test has scientists optimistic they can identify more easily COVID-19. Scientists have approved the test confirming it will provide a better understanding of how much the infection has spread. Moreover, they are also hopeful this new test regarding antibodies will shed light on the question on everybody’s mind: how long does immunity last?
Indeed, we now know much more about the virus than we did previously. But the question of immunity is still an extremely pressing and perplexing one. We do not yet know how long do these antibodies stay in recovered patients. Nor we know what sort of protection do these antibodies provide against re-infection. Therefore, hopes among scientists are high that this new test might finally give us more precise and testable answers.
Health Canada approved the test DiaSorin LIAISON last week, and is looking to use it in Canadian labs to determine if a blood sample contains COVID-19 antibodies. This would be evidence the person that provided the blood sample was exposed to the virus and recovered.
Meanwhile, another optimistic voice is that of the Prime Minister. PM Justin Trudeau expressed satisfaction at the thought of a potential scientific breakthrough. He stated: ‘These tests will help us better understand immunity against the virus and how it spreads, so we can keep Canadians safe.’
The Italian company that manufactured and supplied DiaSorin LIAISON to Canada also shared this test with other labs. Therefore, scientists in the USA, Australia, Russia and India will coordinate with Canada and Italy. Cooperation, again, might be the key in the fight against the threat of COVID-19, which has already put a strain on entire countries and economies.
Immunity and Population
One of the main benefits of this test is the possibility of wide-scale population testing, according to Dr. Theresa Tam. However, she also marks clear that immunology is still a ‘young’ science. It would be therefore too soon to trust antibody tests as guarantees of complete immunity, i.e. full protection against re-infection.
‘It is a little premature to be able to use these tests and interpret them on that basis’, said Tam. But the test will still foster new research on lasting immunity and protection against second exposure. One thing needs to be made clear: antibodies do not guarantee immunity. They are merely ‘witnesses’ and ‘remnants’ of previous infection, survivors of a biological clash.
Other countries in the EU and the rest of the world are starting to administer antibody test to determine how many are or were asymptomatic. In some of the hardest-hit regions, the percentage of asymptomatic cases can rise to 30 per cent or higher. The DiaSorin Test, developed in Italy amidst the outbreak, is up to 97.5 per cent accurate. Colin Furness, expert in infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, remarks this figure is ‘pretty good’ as ‘no test is perfect’.
Of course, the ideal objective is to learn if long-term population immunity is achievable. But this is something that will require time. Meanwhile, WHO has shut down other bogus ideas such as proposals for ‘immunity passports’, citing the lack of evidence that presence of antibodies equals immunity.