Painting antibody testing as a 'missing weapon' fails to send clear messages the current scientific data is providing us with in relation to when antibody tests may be helpful and when not.
I read with interest the Maverick Citizen article by Vardas and colleagues, "Antibody testing - the missing weapon in the fight against Covid-19 in South Africa", which provided excellent background into the two types of tests that could be used in identifying someone infected by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and some of the history behind South Africa's testing strategy.
Painting antibody testing as a "missing weapon" in the fight against Covid-19 is, however, misleading and fails to send the clear messages the current scientific data is providing us with in relation to when antibody tests may be helpful and, more important, when they are not.
Simply put, tests used in Covid-19 either identify the virus in the airways employing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify SARS-CoV-2 genes, or an immune response mounted by the infected person as their immune system responds to the virus. The marker of the immune response we use is the production of proteins called antibodies that can be found in blood. These antibodies recognise...