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COVID-19: Mayo expert talks testing concerns

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Despite coronavirus being in our lives for several months now, there remains a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact there are many coronavirus strains including ones that cause the common cold.

However, health officials say "SARS CoV-2" the specific virus that causes COVID-19, is different from the common cold.

There are two tests someone can take, a diagnostic test which is a nasal swab, or an antibody test that shows if you've been exposed to the virus and your body developed antibodies to protect yourself.

Mayo Clinic Chair of Clinical Microbiology Dr. Bobbi Pritt

Mayo Clinic Chair of Clinical Microbiology Dr. Bobbi Pritt says early on there were multiple different manufactures creating COVID-19 antibody tests that were not regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

"Early on we had labs using tests that have not received that review and some of those tests may not have been good and some of the those tests may have given you a false positive and detected the normal coronavirus that circulates and causes the common cold," Dr. Pritt said.

However, that's not the case anymore. "I would say the vast majority have been extensively tested to show that they do not cross react and give you false positives due to the common cold," Dr. Pritt stated.

The nasal swab test, the one that shows if you're currently infected did not have this regulation and accuracy problem.

Both the diagnostic test and an antibody test now are more specific and sensitive to picking up SARS CoV-2.

"Even if you had 99% sensitivity and 99% specificity that still means that 1 out of 100 patients is gonna get a false negative or false positive results," said Dr. Pritt who also says those are good odds.

"We don't know if its a false positive, but the chances are that with a test with 99% sensitivity and specificity its probably a true positive result you don't wanna expose others," said Dr. Pritt.

If you test positive for antibodies Dr. Pritt says you don't have the active virus. It just means you have been exposed, and now your body has antibodies to protect against future infections.

"The good news is our tests now quite specifically to detecting SARS CoV-2 and the antibody response to that virus not the other coronavirus," Dr. Pritt stated.

Nonetheless, there is some evidence that shows 10 -20 percent of people don't form antibodies after being infected with COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, it looks like not everyone who's been infected with COVID-19 forms an antibody response that will protect them completely from subsequent infection," Dr. Pritt stated.

Ubah Ali

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