Retail outlet and pharmacy, Clicks recently announced that it will also be offering Covid-19 antibody tests at its clinics nationwide. This comes shortly after Dis-Chem, in partnership with Lancet Laboratories, announced they would be offering South Africans Covid-19 antibody testing via public drive-through stations across the country.
An antibody test at Dis-Chem will cost you R380 with results SMS’d within 24-48 hours. Clicks, on the other hand, will be offering antibody tests for only R199 from 19 October and patients will receive their results immediately (within 15 minutes.)
Antibody tests do not detect active cases as does the nasal swab test (also offered for roughly R850). Instead, an antibody test detects whether someone was “very likely” to have already caught Covid-19 and developed an immune response.
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According to Dis-Chem, the test detects antibodies which begin to build up approximately fourteen days after a person has been infected. It’s important to note that even if you test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, there is no science to prove you are immune to future infections.
“A positive antibody test result, therefore, should not be regarded as proof of immunity and must not be used to reduce or abandon protective measures,” said the Department of Health.
The Covid-19 antibody test kits were approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to be used as part of SA’s fight against the pandemic.
Recommendation for use of tests at Clicks and Dis-Chem
According to the health department, these tests may be used to:
- Diagnose Covid-19 retrospectively in patients who have recovered from a Covid-19 compatible illness and are negative based on results from the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) PCR test.
- Diagnose Covid-19 in patients who are admitted with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection but who test negative for RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) as an ancillary investigation. This will include children with suspected multisystem inflammatory syndrome who may test negative with SARS-CoV-2 PCR.
- Identify past exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in individuals optimally at 21 days post-infection.
- To assess SARS-CoV-2 vaccine responses.
- To identify potential convalescent plasma donors.
A negative antibody test result does not reliably rule out prior infection. Possible causes would be:
- Insufficient sensitivity of antibody test.
- Acute phase testing (specifically within 14 days post-symptom onset).
- Some patients may not form detectable antibodies, especially following asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.
- Waning of antibodies over time, in as soon as one to two months in asymptomatic or mild cases.
A positive antibody test result does not reliably prove prior infection. Possible causes would be due to insufficient specificity of the antibody test. Cross-reacting antibodies, for example, those directed against other human coronaviruses.
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