FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – With the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, Colorado medical provider UCHealth is boasting of its ability to test Coloradans for COVID-19 antibodies with a more than 98% accuracy rate. An antibody test lets someone know if they’ve already contracted COVID-19 coronavirus in the past. It does not show if a person currently has the virus.
While the idea of testing for COVID-19 antibodies is not new to Colorado, the success rate of UCHealth’s tests are. Some other companies are offering similar tests which can come back with incorrect results.
“We have an (almost) 99% accuracy on antibody testing. There are a lot of companies out there that are offering it, and they can’t offer that same percentile,” said Kory Scheideman, Clinical Nurse Manager at UCHealth.
At a UCHealth testing location in Fort Collins, nearly two thirds of those being tested for COVID are seeking the antibody test. The others are simply seeking the COVID PCR test, which only provides results on current infection of COVID-19.
The PCR test is done by nasal swab, while the antibody test is done by blood draw.
“(People taking the antibody test wonder,) ‘I was sick. Did I have COVID? Did I not?’ It is definitely piece of mind,” said Chris Foster, Laboratory Supervisor at UCHealth.
Many believe they had COVID-19 before the virus was labeled as a global pandemic. While the United States’ first COVID-19 case didn’t arrive until March, researchers now believe it could have been in the country in late 2019.
CBS4’s Dillon Thomas fell ill in February of this year. At the time, he shrugged it off as a common cold with chills, headache, fever, some loss of taste and fatigue. He did not experience coughing or shortness of breath. After learning months later that many of those symptoms are also associated with COVID-19, he elected to participate in UCHealth’s antibody testing.
Without ever leaving his vehicle, he was taken through the testing process at UCHealth. That involved checking in by providing basic identification information, and then pulling in to parking spot for the blood draw. The blood draw only took a matter of minutes.
“It is very quick. We don’t have to send those out for testing, so we have a quick turnaround time,” Foster said.
UCHealth promises results to the antibody tests within 12-to-24 hours. Thomas’ came back within two. His results were “non-reactive,” meaning he has not had COVID-19 in the past and already recovered. However, it also doesn’t mean he doesn’t currently have the virus. Only a nasal swab test could answer that.
Medical professionals also emphasized the importance of noting the lack of understanding as to what a “reactive” (or positive) test means in the long-term for Coloradans.
“We don’t know what the antibodies, having that, means quite yet. It is still up in the air,” Scheideman said.
“At this time we are told it doesn’t guarantee immunity. But, that is definitely what we are aiming for,” Foster said.
As testing and research continue to evolve around COVID-19, medical professionals hope to understand if antibodies can protect humans from ever contracting COVID-19 again. It is also possible that the antibodies would protect people temporarily, before eventually fading away.
UCHealth’s antibody testing currently costs $100, and can be scheduled by appointment at several locations across the state. Those being tested are asked to fill out a questionnaire first, and then can elect to pay the bill themselves, or have it issued to their insurance.