Antibody tests for COVID-19 have flooded the market. Some are more reliable than others

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 9:28 PM HST|Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 9:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The COVID-19 swab test tells you if you’re currently infected with the virus.

But antibody tests, now becoming more widely available, can tell you if you’ve already had the infection.

The problem with antibody tests? Not all of them are very reliable.

Dr. Jim Ireland bought a variety of the tests to see how they worked. When he tested them on people he knew had recovered from COVID-19, he says the results were mixed.

He did not use the tests on patients or for clinical purposes.

“From my own experience, I can say that not all the tests are created equal,” Ireland said.

That inaccuracy has prompted the FDA to crack down on rapid antibody tests, which have flooded the market.

“It was very confusing because we didn’t know which ones were reliable, which ones worked and recently they said that they are going to get more stringent on who they are going to approve,” said Ireland.

While some private clinics are offering free tests to first responders and essential workers, state Health Director Bruce Anderson urged caution.

“I think the important thing is people understand the limits of the antibody test. The antibody test only tells you if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19," he said.

"They’re not used as a diagnostic tool because it takes a while to develop the antibodies even after you’re sick and they should never be used for clearance purposes,” he said.

Ireland sees travelers taking tests before getting on a plane, but until that happens and if patients are looking to get tested, they’re advised to contact their doctor.

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