Rapid Antibody Test Not to Be Used for Back-to-Work Clearance

The swab test still remains the "gold standard."

ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) The rapid antibody test is the most widely used kind of testing for COVID-19 in the Philippines. It gives fast results, cheap, and can be implemented on a mass testing level. Still, it's not as accurate as the real-time polymerase chain reaction test (a.k.a. swab test), which remains the "gold standard" in pathogen testing. Because of this, the Department of Health recommended that "rapid antibody-based test kids shall not be used as standalone tests to definitively diagnose or rule out COVID-19," according to Memorandum No. 2020-0258.

The health agency also reiterated that rapid antibody tests should not be used for final diagnosis, screening, return-to-work clearance, or travel entry policies "due to its low sensitive and high false negative rates, as well as uncertainties to its connection to immunity."

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Rapid antibody tests only require a drop of blood from a pricked finger. It detects the presence antibodies in your body: the immunoglobulin M (or IgM), which increases in the first three to 10 days after you've experienced symptoms; and immunoglobulin G (IgG), which appears around seven to 14 days later. IgM clears the body faster than IgG; and the latter is more long-lasting and stays even until you're rid of the virus. This means that if you're still in the early stages of infection, you may not have enough antibodies for the rapid antibody test to recognize. To add to that, studies show that virus transmission from pre-symptomatic cases is highly possible.

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