I’ve been sharing posts about COVID19 testing recently. Many advocate testing as a big part of the the solution to eradicate the virus.
I am in favor of testing. Specifically I am in favor of high sensitivity ddPCR testing which is not yet widely available. I will post more on this in the near future.
In the interim though, we are getting bombarded with direct-to-consumer advertisements for testing.
This morning I awoke to another one in my email inbox. This one was from Quest Diagnostics. See below.
“We know you have a lot of questions about how and when your family and community can get back to normal. Through COVID-19 testing, Quest Diagnostics can help you get some of the answers you need to start looking ahead…[XYZ Test] Detects antibodies to see if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and developed an immune response to the virus.* Understanding this gives you insight on whether it’s right to return to work, school, and activity. [ABC Test] Shows if you’re currently sick with COVID-19. Knowing if you’re ill helps you decide if you should self-quarantine to keep your loved ones and community safe from infection. Do not go to a Quest patient service center for this test. Learn more about these tests, including where you can get tested.
*While the role of antibodies in preventing COVID-19 disease has yet to be established, antibody testing for other respiratory illnesses (SARS, flu) provides insight into immunity to future diseases… Save valuable time by ordering an immune response test for yourself through QuestDirect™. This avoids any wait time to get a test order from your doctor. Once you purchase the test online, you’ll be directed to make an appointment at a Quest location near you. The QuestDirect test cost cannot be submitted to health insurance.“
I can’t say I am surprised. COVID19 has become big business. According to a Forbes article here, Quest is offering antibody tests directly to patients without a need for a prescription for $119 each.
In their advertisement they say that getting their test can help you understand whether you have been exposed to COVID19 and may help you make a decision about whether it’s safe to return to work or not.
But I do wonder if the laboratory staff are explaining to people the vast uncertainties of the antibody tests. How tests strongly depend on 1. local antibody prevalence in the population and 2. test sensitivity. How certain conditions can produce LARGE numbers of false positive results- giving you a false sense of security.
Maybe it’s all in the fine print somewhere. I don’t know.
If you are thinking about one of these antibody tests and want to educate yourself more before you plunk down the $119, go here for a little primer.
At the very least you should ask them what the local prevalence of antibody is in your population and what the sensitivity of their test is. Only then should you decide whether it’s worth it for the labs to have your blood.