NEWS | Rapid Antibody Tests not for COVID-19 screening

By: The News Team

Graphics by: Vince Julius Balaga

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), one of the country’s COVID-19 referral centers, opposes the use of rapid antibody tests (RAT) in screening patients for COVID-19, noting that it does not detect 80% of infected individuals.

Furthermore, the Department of Health (DOH) released Department Memorandum 2020–0258 which explained that the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) remains as the gold standard for testing patients for the virus. This was also supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) statement that rapid tests can only be used in research settings.

Until evidence proves otherwise, both institutions emphasized that RAT is not recommended as stand-alone tests for diagnosis, return-to-work decisions, or entry-to-country policies.

RAT, not effective for detecting virus

PGH director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi noted that they conducted “side by side” tests on 3,033 patients using RAT and RT-PCR to get the evidence of high false positive and negative rates of rapid tests.

The Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Inc. (PSMID) first made the call, insisting that RAT is not effective in detecting the virus.

Despite this, RAT is being recommended by the business sector as a requirement before employees can go back to work.

“There is a very complex science of immunology. I don’t think it is easy to understand from a businessman’s standpoint or from a policeman’s stand point or any other area,” Legaspi remarked.

RAT used for convalescent screening

Legaspi clarified that RAT can still be used for convalescent screening of COVID-19 patients who want to undergo Convalescent Plasma Therapy. Additionally, RAT is used to detect the antibody level of COVID-19 survivors before they can donate convalescent plasma.

However, DOH emphasized that the said therapy is still in its experimental stage and is still being evaluated. As of writing, there are still no concrete evidence that it can be effective against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19

“I guess the basic principle that we should follow is that if you have yourself tested, then you’re suspect to have COVID-19. You should isolate yourself,” Legaspi said as he highlighted the importance of self-isolation in case a person turns out positive for the virus.

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The Manila Collegian

The Manila Collegian

The Official Student Publication of the University of the Philippines Manila. Magna est veritas et prevaelebit.