South Africa: COVID-19 - an Antibody-Based Serology Test Provides Little to No Real-Time Value


An antibody-based serology test is unlikely to provide any information that would guide the management of the majority of people hospitalised with Covid-19. It provides little to no value other than making a hole in the pocket of already financially distressed citizens.

A recent article by Dr E Vardas and colleagues published in Daily Maverick on 8 July 2020 purports that the use of serology assay to diagnose Covid-19 could redress challenges being faced with diagnosing Covid-19 cases and could assist in better managing the outbreak being experienced.

The article correctly points out that, "Laboratory tests are essential for the control of this pandemic, contributing to case identification, isolation, contact tracing, and rationalisation of infection control measures". Notably, for testing to play a role in addressing any of these objectives requires the testing to identify current and not past infections. For laboratory tests to be useful, it needs to be designed for purpose.

While antibody-based serology assays may have a role in identifying past infections, it has zero role in identifying individuals that are infectious (current infection).

The evidence is clear that the antibody responses (IgG and IgM) following onset of symptoms is positive in 80% of individuals only approximately...

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