Some North Texas doctors skeptical about new COVID-19 antibody testing

Some North Texas clinics are offering what's called an antibody test which can find out if someone may have already fought COVID-19 and didn't know it.

There's only one antibody test approved by the FDA. But many companies have created their own versions of that test. Some clinics, like one in Allen, are offering them.

The antibody test is gaining popularity. But not all doctors agree on its accuracy.

With more and more Texans desperate to find out if they're infected with COVID-19, new private-testing centers are starting to pop up across North Texas.

Susan Hall is one of dozens of people who drove to Pam Rehab Hospital in Allen Tuesday to get what's known as an antibody test.             

“Got the address. Punched it into my GPS. Jumped into my car and came,” she said.

Provided by CURA Telehealth, the drive-thru test involves a small blood collection. It can tell if a person has developed antibodies showing that they have or have already had the virus. The tests administered Tuesday are FDA authorized but not FDA approved.

Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society, says antibody testing could provide important data to city and county leaders trying to come up with a plan to safely reopen the economy.

“What the antibody testing will allow us to do is identify patients who have been exposed to the virus and the inference,” Casanova said. “We need to be careful with this is that they maintain some immunity or some degree of immunity for what is right now an unclear period of time.”

But Dr. Nick Karr, who has been providing a diagnostic test that checks for active infection, is skeptical of the antibody test results.

“The challenge is you could actively have a COVID infection right now. It could be 10 days to up to two weeks before you develop the antibodies it. So there's a huge lag time there,” he said. “We're seeing a lot of the test have a high rate of false negatives. So you get a negative result when you have had it or a false positive when it tells you that you have the virus but it was some other virus.”

But with all tests still hard to come by, folks like Susan Hall are willing to give the antibody test a try.

“I figured we're doing this for the greater good,” she said.

Dr. Casanova says there is also a new saliva test that will soon be offered at some doctor's offices, which will further expand testing capabilities. Still, he says it's important for folks to continue to practice social distancing to avoid a second wave of infection.