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, critics point out that the recruitment was done through Facebook ads. It likely attracted people with COVID-19 like symptoms. It also had relatively few minority’s or 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 to 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 that summarizes the objections to the tests. The test used has been shown to have a significant false-positive rate. The test has also not been approved by the FDA – which means the test has 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 shortcomings 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.