COVID-19 Antibody Testing in April 2020
COVID-19 antibody testing appears to show that the number of infected people is much higher than currently reported. Two recent large scale antibody testing in Santa Clara and Los Angeles County in California report there has been a huge undercount. However, Some claim there are flaws in the testing.
The Santa Clara Study reported between 2.49% to 4.16% of the county population had likely been infected. However, critic point out that the recruitment was done through Facebook adds. It likely attracted people with COVID-19 like symptoms. It also also had relatively few minority’s of low-income people tested. The test was reported on many news channels. Here’s a report on CNN https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/17/health/santa-clara-coronavirus-infections-study/index.html
The USC COVID-19 antibody study in Los Angeles county also estimated that about 4.1% of LA residents may have already had COVID-19. The study has not been subject peer review yet. https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/early-antibody-testing-indicates-far-more-covid-19-cases-lower-mortality-rate/2349275/
Experts are questioning the two studies. The Guardian published an article which summarizes the objections to the tests. The test used has a been shown to have a significant false positive rate. The test has also not been approved by the FDA – which means the test have not yet been shown to be accurate. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/23/coronavirus-antibody-studies-california-stanford
Other counties have also conducted COVID-19 Antibody testing, including Germany and the Netherlands. One study estimated that COVID-19 is only 3.7 times as deadly as the common flu. However, there are serious short comings in these tests. One Danish group found three false positives in a sample of 82. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/antibody-surveys-suggesting-vast-undercount-coronavirus-infections-may-be-unreliable
If the studies are correct then COVID-19 is less deadly than original thought. However, COVID-19 is still deadly enough to overwhelm the regional health care systems which would result in the terrible results seen in some Italian cities.
We need accurate COVID-19 and COVID-19 Antibody testing to really understand the scope of this virus. One thing I do know is that as science understands COVID-19 better we will get better antibody tests.
I expect a significant increase in information about Antibodies as Scientists learn more about COVID-19.