Doctors warn antibody tests shouldn't be used to determine when to return to work

Doctors warn antibody tests shouldn't be used to determine when to return to work
Posted at 3:01 PM, Jul 16, 2020

National lab companies are offering antibody tests as part of their return to work offerings, but doctors are warning these tests shouldn't be used yet to determine whether it's safe for you to be back in an office.

“There is not a perfect antibody test out there right now to determine an individual’s immunity to COVID-19,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, President of the American Medical Association. “The tests are getting better. We've come a long way in the last few months, but we're certainly not ready to do anything like give someone an immunity certificate or anything like that.

Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp are two companies offering the testing to employers.

LabCorp does say that antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude COVID-19 infection.

Quest Diagnostics also emphasizes it is unknown how long antibodies persist following infection, and if the presence of antibodies gives you immunity.

That's something the American Medical Association agrees with.

“Everything needs to be taken in context. Have you been exposed to COVID-19? How careful have you been? Have you been in any settings where you might have been inadvertently exposed?” asked Bailey. “The lab values themselves may not mean a whole lot. We still have a lot to learn when it comes to what defines immunity to COVID-19.”

Bailey also points to early studies on antibodies that indicate they may not last very long. She says she's not sure antibody testing is ever going to be the way to go to determine when someone is safe to go back to work.

If you do get an antibody test, it's important to go over it with your doctor so they can help you understand the significance of it.

The American Medical Association says antibody tests can be helpful to try to see how many people in an area have been exposed to COVID-19, and also for determining if someone who had COVID-19 is eligible to donate plasma.