WCPO 9 Anchor Kristyn Hartman shows what happened when she took a rapid antibody test for COVID-19. Watch Kristyn's report in the video player above.
MARIEMONT, Ohio - Experts say antibody tests are critical in the response to coronavirus because they can help doctors understand who has already been infected and who is still at risk.
I had a morning drive-up appointment for a rapid antibody test. Dr. Lisa Larkin's practice in Mariemont was the provider.
Larkin has 1,200 kits as part of an internal review board-approved trial.
Keep in mind, the rapid tests are not FDA approved. But last month the FDA began allowing companies to make and distribute them without formal authorization if they met certain criteria.
We're looking at how an antibody test works, how reliable it is and what it reveals. I will compare my results to what we know in our population.
As part of the effort to piece that puzzle together, Larkin’s staff got my paperwork with history info as I sat in my car, measured my oxygen, took my temperature, then took the simple finger stick blood sample.
It didn't hurt at all.
Larkin is offering the drive-up test to people outside and in her practice.
Jeff March wanted to know if he had COVID-19 antibodies. He had been in Washington, D.C., the previous month.
“The next week I had a low-grade fever,” March said. “Felt a little achy ... consulted my doc..."
But he couldn't get a COVID-19 diagnostic test because he was only mildly symptomatic. So he quarantined and later got Larkin's antibody test.
“This looks at your body's response to infection with the virus,” Larkin said.
Very basically, it identifies if you've had the infection or not.
March’s test showed he was positive for antibodies.
Larkin said 16 of the 400 men and women her team had tested so far showed antibody response -- results consistent with COVID-19 symptoms they experienced.
“I will tell you, of my 16 none were asymptomatic, which is interesting because we keep hearing asymptomatic infections are as high as 25%," Larkin said.
It's the reason she says antibody testing is so important. It can help us understand the virus, who's had it, who's vulnerable, and what the response should be.
My test was negative, so I asked Larkin what that means.
“In all probability you not been exposed. You are still at risk of contracting the virus,” Larkin said. “You need to continue to practice social distancing."
Larkin cautioned that there can be false negatives and some people could have such low antibody levels the test doesn't pick them up
Larkin said no test is 100% accurate, but wide-scale antibody testing could allow us to know what immunity levels might look like, who could be impacted in a possible second wave, and how and when we can open back up.
The federal government has indicated that testing should be free to help get the country through this pandemic, but Larkin said her practice does not participate in commercial insurance or Medicare. Her staff can provide a receipt for anyone tested to submit to their insurance independently.
Here's what she charges for the test:
- $40 for first responders
- $50 for practice members
- $75 for non-members
Larkin said she and her team are working to get back to the hundreds of people who called their office after our original story aired. You can also reach her on social media. She does a Facebook Live everyday at 3 p.m. to answer coronavirus questions.
Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See the following list of resources and frequently asked questions:
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.