COVID Antibody Testing: Cutting Through the Noise with Dr. Travis Riddell

Researchers are racing to develop antibody testing for the new coronavirus. So far, the FDA has approved three kinds. The tests do not diagnose COVID-19 but they can potentially tell us if a person has been…

by | Apr 17, 2020 | COVID-19, Health, News

Researchers are racing to develop antibody testing for the new coronavirus. So far, the FDA has approved three kinds. The tests do not diagnose COVID-19 but they can potentially tell us if a person has been exposed to the new coronavirus. They also could capture the way the virus has moved through the community.

St. John’s Health was set to test health care workers and first responders with an antibody test from COVAXX, a subsidiary of United Biomedical. That company develops vaccines and diagnostic testing kits and one of the people on its leadership team, Jackson resident Dakin Sloss, was helping to secure those tests here. (Sources have told KHOL that COVAXX is already providing these tests to local physicians unaffiliated with St. John’s Health.)

But the hospital announced last week testing of health care workers and first responders is on pause.

The COVAXX test is not yet FDA approved, a concern for Dr. Paul Beaupre, CEO of St. John’s Health. It also happens to be the same test involved in a debacle in San Miguel County, Colorado, where thousands of people are still waiting for their results weeks after testing.

Regardless of the test manufacturer, Beaupre is also concerned about false positives and questions of people’s immunity to the virus—some who have the antibodies have been reinfected.

Experts say timing is another limitation to consider.

According to San Miguel County Department of Public Health, there are 13 confirmed cases there, meaning it is perhaps not at a point on its epidemic curve for the antibody tests to provide useful information about infection rates. 

Since the hospital announced last week that antibody testing for front line workers was on hold, Beaupre has assembled a panel of health experts and physicians who “have no financial interests” in testing companies to assess antibody testing platforms. 

Among the people on that panel is Teton District health officer Dr. Travis Riddell. He recently discussed with KHOL active disease testing, antibody testing, and which tests will benefit the community given where we sit on the epidemic curve. (We’re still climbing that peak.)

Listen above for more.

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn launched KHOL's news department. She has worked as a reporter and editor in Wyoming for the last decade and her work has aired on NPR stations throughout the West. When she's not sweating deadlines, Robyn sustains her nomadic heart by traveling the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow @TheNomadicHeart

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