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Antibody testing debate and warning about fake tests

HOUSTON – There is growing controversy over antibody testing and the potential immunity and a warning about fake tests.

The World Health Organization last week said there was no evidence that people who recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies that are protected from a second infection. They since backtracked a bit from that statement and now say it might protect you, they just are not sure.

“They are simply saying we don’t know what happens if you have antibodies or how long those antibodies can actually protect you. And we also aren’t sure about the reliability of many of the antibody tests currently being used,” said Dr. John Torres, NBC chief medical correspondent.

“You still have to take it with a grain of salt because there’s still a false positive rate, which can give a false sense of security,” explains Dr. Shane Magee, with Kelsey-Seybold clinic.

Researchers in California found 15% of antibody tests they analyzed produced a false positive. To put this in perspective, for common medical tests, experts want to see less than 2% of false-positive rates. Doctors warn that could give people false confidence people have already been exposed when they have not.

The antibody tests could be valuable in the meantime.

“It may be useful for healthcare workers and frontline workers to say I’m more likely to be immune so go in there with my full protective equipment and see more of these patients, but I still would be very very careful if you had a positive,” Dr. Magee said.

“The tests may help a little bit, but that doesn’t mean people should be walking around with a false sense of security when you go out, thinking I have immunity so I can do whatever I want,” Torres said.

There is also a warning about fake tests. As of this week, there are 150 antibody tests on the market without having faced Government review. The FDA has actually verified and authorized less than 10 tests.