US authorises first Covid-19 antibodies test

It will yield results in 15-20 minutes

The Food and Drug Administration has issued its first authorization for a COVID-19 test that looks for antibodies in the blood, rather than for the virus in the nose or throat. While the antibody approach means this test will have limitations, it’s an important tool that could help in the response to the pandemic.

The test is produced by the biotechnology company Cellex. Health care providers have to draw blood from a patient’s vein to run the test, and it can only be done in certified labs — not a doctor’s office. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to get a result.

When someone is infected with a virus for the first time, their immune system begins producing antibodies specific to that virus. Checking to see if someone has coronavirus-specific antibodies is good evidence that they’ve been infected. However, the body doesn’t start to make these immediately, and they might not appear until someone’s illness has run its course. As a result, antibody-based tests can tell doctors whether someone has already had COVID-19, but they’re not as good at testing if the patient currently has it.

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