Much of our long-term strategy to deal with COVID-19 relies on knowing who had the disease — but since a large proportion of all cases are asymptomatic, and we don’t even have enough testing kits to diagnose everyone with symptoms, how can you know who had the disease?
A solution that seems highly promising is the antibody test. This type of test would look for an immune response to the disease, and would essentially reveal who has had the disease at some point in the past.
Antibody test campaigns have been discussed and even implemented in several areas, but the problem is that we still don’t know for sure how accurate these tests are. According to a recent announcement by German company Siemens, a new, accurate test might hit the shelves soon.
“With a demonstrated sensitivity and specificity of more than 99 percent, the test is expected to exceed the stringent FDA quality guidelines,” the Siemens press release reads.
The specificity — the narrowness of the range of substances with which an antibody agent reacts — has been the plague of antibody tests. If the company’s announcement bears truth, then it would be one of the most (if not the most) accurate tests on the market, although no proof has been provided in this regard. Siemens will apply for authorization from the FDA soon enough.
“Siemens Healthineers is working diligently to address the need for high-quality tests in the fight against COVID-19. This test is being designed with the precision and controls, sensitivity and specificity that laboratories have come to expect from our immunoassay tests,” said Deepak Nath, PhD, President, Laboratory Diagnostics, Siemens Healthineers.
In addition to an accurate test, the company also promises quick results: its lab analysis takes just 14 minutes, ensuring that tests are carried out as quickly as possible.
The tests are expected to come out in late May, and by June, the company expects to produce 25 million tests per month. Given that we can’t realistically expect a vaccine in less than 12 months, diagnostic and immunity tests will likely become a part of our lives for the next few months, or perhaps even the next couple of years. Producing tens of millions of tests every month is exactly what we need over the coming period.