UR Medicine Labs will begin testing blood samples for antibodies to novel coronavirus on June 1.
Patients need a testing order from a provider, and can have their blood drawn by the provider or at any UR Medicine Labs testing location. UR Medicine’s provider guidelines call for testing patients who:
- Are being diagnosed or treated for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children (MIS-C)
- Have fully recovered from COVID-19 and would like to donate convalescent plasma
- Previously had symptoms of COVID-19 but did not receive a test to learn if they were infected
Faculty and staff members of URMC and UR Medicine affiliates can also receive antibody tests at no charge to determine if they have previously been exposed to the virus. UR Medicine Labs anticipates volumes of about 500 antibody tests per day at its central processing facility on Bailey Road, with the ability to process more if demand grows higher. Results will be available within one or two days, and will be posted immediately for patients who use the MyChart patient portal.
Testing for antibodies indicates whether a patient has had COVID-19 in the past. Test results will be useful in determining past infections in the community on a large scale, but it remains unclear whether an individual confirmed to have coronavirus antibodies is immune to COVID-19. It is also unknown how long such potential immunity might last. For these reasons, it is important for people to continue the safety measures that protect themselves and others from exposure, including proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in clinical settings.
“This test is a valuable tool for understanding the prevalence of disease in our community and for some diagnostic purposes, but no one should let down their guard based on the result of an antibody test,” said Michael Apostolakos, MD, Chief Medical Officer of URMC. “Health care workers need to maintain protocols for PPE and disinfection, which have proven effective at avoiding the spread of COVID-19 inside our clinical facilities. In public we still must practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands frequently and avoid touching our faces to avoid a resurgence of disease in our community.”
Bruce Smoller, MD, chairman of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at URMC, said scientists have worked diligently to develop a test with clinical specificity above 99 percent to reduce the risk of false positives. He praised the hard work of the test development team led by Nicole Pecora, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of clinical microbiology.
“Dr. Pecora and her team have worked tirelessly to develop a test with utmost accuracy in a short span of time,” said Smoller. “Thanks to their ingenuity and resourcefulness, we can utilize a number of our existing testing platforms at the Central Laboratory to provide this new testing capability for our patients and staff members across upstate New York.”
UR Medicine Labs processes over 10 million patient tests per year. In March, it began performing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is a molecular test that can detect the presence of an active infection. The antibody test detects IgG antibodies in an individual’s blood serum that have been developed as part of the body’s immune response to fight SARS-CoV-2.