REGION – As San Diego slowly moves toward Stage 3 of reopening the local economy amidst the COVID-19 health pandemic, many are looking to antibody testing to gauge both personal exposures to the virus, and the region’s level of herd immunity.
And local companies are meeting the call —health care diagnostics company Genalyte has partnered with the San Diego Blood Bank to provide the tests, more technically referred to as SARS-CoV-2 Multi-Antigen Serology Panels.
Claudine Van Gonka, a spokeswoman with the San Diego Blood Bank, called the partnership “an extension of our mission.”
“We’re proud to offer greater access to antibody testing for San Diegans,” she said.
The tests are meant to detect whether an individual has potentially been exposed to the virus. It specifically tests for IgM and IgG antibodies that can remain in the body after someone has recovered, and according to a news release issued by Genalyte, “(IgG antibodies) are believed to be a marker of sustained immunity, although the duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 needs further study.”
According to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the tests should not be used to determine immunity at this time, but more to provide information “about populations that may be immune and potentially protected.”
The report states that although the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies “likely indicates at least some degree of immunity, until the durability and duration of immunity are established, it cannot be assumed that individuals with truly positive antibody test results are protected from future infection.”
The report suggests that those who test positive through serologic testing but have been asymptomatic and “without a recent history of a COVID-19 compatible illness,” should still continue to follow general recommendations to protect from infection.
Regardless, according to Genalyte CEO Cary Gunn, the company’s tests have over a 99% accuracy rate, and a low false-positive rate.
The serology panel has a positive predictive value of 84% — meaning that less than 1.6 in 10 individuals tested will have a false positive outcome. This is based on specificity of 99%, and the approximate prevalence of the virus in San Diego of about 5%.
The testing is available at all of the blood bank’s six sites in San Diego County, Tuesday through Thursday. It is now mandated by federal law that private insurance companies cover the cost of such tests; without insurance, it costs $149.
The tests are meant for those who no longer have symptoms and have not had symptoms for at least 14 days. Results are available within 24-48 hours.
Individuals can sign up for an appointment at: https://www.genalytecovid19.com.
Van Gonka said that the organization’s headquarters off Gateway Center Avenue has carried out approximately 60 tests a day since testing began in early May, with the other five sites doing around 30 a day. The blood bank has the capacity to test up to 1,000 patients per day.
The San Diego Blood Bank is also urging people who have had the virus and been symptom-free for 28 days to donate convalescent plasma — which is currently being investigated as a potential treatment option for COVID-19.