Antibody tests could do more harm than good by giving people the false hope they are protected, review warns

Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics and head of the Test Evaluation Research Group at the University of Birmingham, said: “We have to ask the question, is this going to do more harm than good? 

“It’s giving people the sense that they may be immune. We don’t know that and we’re not going to know that for some while. There is no decision they should be making based on the results of this test.

“The tests have an important public health role in terms of understanding and mapping disease, but individually are questionable.”

The government had hoped the antibody testing could identify people who are immune from coronavirus and could go about their daily lives without risk of infection.

But several studies have now shown that not everyone that is infected will develop antibodies, particularly people who have the disease in a mild form.

Likewise, false positives may encourage people to be less scrupulous with social distancing and hand washing, putting themselves and others at risk.

Co-author, Dr Michael Brown, of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, added: “What action are you going to take as a patient if you have a positive or negative antibody test? You’re going to behave differently and we don’t know if you’re actually immune to it, 

“So as an individual patient, you still have to practice personal protection and isolation.”

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