There’s a new tool in the fight against coronavirus making its way into hospitals and clinics around North Texas.
Several manufacturers have begun producing and shipping serological tests, which look for antibodies often present in response to COVID-19.
“We can truly prick a finger, get a drop or two of blood and that would be enough for us to get a result,” said Chief Medical Officer of E.R. Near Me Dr. Gorav Bohil.
Bohil said the test looks like a diabetic’s glucose test with a quick finger stick to get a couple of drops of blood. Those are added to a test strip, which shows results the same way an at-home pregnancy test would in about 10 minutes.
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Though serological tests aren’t FDA approved, manufacturers got the green light back on March 16 when the FDA loosened restrictions on testing methods still under trial.
They released a statement which read in part:
“We believe the unprecedented policy set forth in today’s updated guidance, which addresses laboratories and commercial manufacturers, will help address these urgent public health concerns by helping to expand the number and variety of diagnostic tests, as well as available testing capabilities in health care settings, and reference and commercial laboratories.”
“It was amazing. It was one of the reasons we worked hard to become one of the first facilities to be able to obtain this test. We saw the clinical impact this would have for us as emergency physicians. We knew what it would mean to our patients, what it would mean to the quality care we deliver,” said Bohil.
Both he and the FDA are quick to point out that the results are presumptive.
Negative results from a serological test don’t necessarily mean a patient doesn’t have COVID-19. Similarly, positive results aren’t reliable either as the test can pick up signs of past or present infection from other strains of the virus.
For that reason, Bohil said he’s confirming positive results with a nasal swab test.
But with results that come back in minutes rather than hours or even days, Bohil believes it puts more weight behind his instruction to patients to self-quarantine. It also provides a better understanding and hopefully peace of mind.
“We understand the negatives. We understand the limitations. But at the end of the day, this is a tool. And if used properly, it can become a powerful tool,” said Bohil.
Still, he stressed testing never replaces prevention and everyone’s role in working to stop the spread of disease.