A number of inquiries have been received by my office today precipitated by an offering for COVID-19 antibody testing by appointment only tomorrow at the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach for those who are willing to pay $200. I have appended an opinion piece from the New York Times that I feel is a complete, informative and thoughtful review of the antibody testing currently available and our knowledge base at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let me state the following:
No, I am not signing up myself or my family for this testing. I am not sure how it helps any of us at this time. As stated in the opinion piece we do not know whether having antibodies (in the case of the Shade offering IgM test only) offers immunity to infection and if it does for how long. We do not know if IgM antibodies are present in the same amounts for severe vs asymptomatic COVID infections and thus able to be detected equally. We do not know what the quantity of antibodies (IgG and IgM) are necessary to convey immunity. I cannot imagine how knowing what my anti COVID-19 IgM antibody levels are would change my current behavior in any way. I will be furious if anyone changes their current behavior based on their antibody testing.
My friends and colleagues are working on the “frontline” caring for all comers who are sick including those who do not believe in mitigation or are looking for a reason to behave in a manner that does not protect us all. Remember, the presence of antibodies does not tell you if you are currently infected and may still be shedding virus but rather that you at some point in time have been infected. Changing your behavior based on knowledge of anti COVID-19 antibody levels has the potential to harm more than just yourself.
It will be important at some point to do widespread antibody testing once we know that it conveys immunity and we will be able to adjust our behavior accordingly. I have not seen any data that suggests that this is the case currently and would be grateful for anyone who has such peer reviewed studies that state otherwise.
I am going to take my $200 and donate it to any number of COVID related causes that will truly help someone. I am going to maintain social distancing, mask wearing and handwashing and knowing what my IgM anti COVID-19 levels will not change this. I will continue to care for anyone who is sick regardless of what their IgM levels are because I as yet have no confidence that this knowledge will be helpful. Paying $200 to satisfy one’s own curiosity seems shallow.