Huntsville Hospital offers coronavirus antibody testing, CDC warns against incorrect results

We took this information to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), where officials say the antibody test definitely has its flaws.

Posted: May 27, 2020 9:29 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2020 3:43 PM

WAAY31 learned more information on coronavirus antibody testing and whether or not it can tell if you had the virus in the past. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that results from these types of tests can be wrong up to 50 percent of the time.

We took this information to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), where officials say the antibody test definitely has its flaws.

In a statement, Dr. Karen Landers says:

"Since ADPH remains concerned about the application of antibody testing in terms of determining any immunity for COVID 19, ADPH cannot recommend antibody testing as an indicator of protection from the disease. There is an ongoing evaluation of antibody testing through research. ADPH continues to advise that any positive testing for COVID 19 antibody testing is subject to many limitations in interpretation and does not ensure that persons will not remain susceptible to COVID 19."

Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers says they offer antibody tests only if a physician is consulted and signs off. Spillers says the specific test they use is more accurate than others. 

"If a physician wants to order an antibody testing, we can do that and get the results back fairly quickly. Since it's all run in house, generally it's a same-day result back to the physician office," Spillers said. 

Antibody tests determine if you may have been exposed to the coronavirus or potentially have some type of immunity to it. Spillers expects most of the results from antibody tests to come back negative.

"Most of those will come back that people don't have antibodies. Just statistically speaking, that's where the numbers are going to be," Spillers said. 

Spillers provided WAAY31 with data showcasing the effectiveness of the antibody tests they use. The test will determine a correct result, 99.81 percent of the time. The hospital is seeing a high demand for the test. 

"I think there has been a curiosity about that for a long period of time," Spillers said. "Until we had a test that was reliable, and until we had a methodology where there was a process to get the test and a discussion with a physician, we weren't going to make it available. We did make it available because of consumer demand."

Right now it is unknown how long antibodies last after an infection. Spillers also says if you have the antibodies, you could still be at risk.

"It doesn't mean you are superman or superwoman and you're immune and you can go do it all these things. You could be COVID positive when you have the antibody test, so there's a variety of factors," Spillers said. 

The CDC says because many antibody tests are misleading, they recommend no policies or guidelines are made based upon results. The Alabama Department of Public Health says it has never used antibody tests to make a guideline.

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