After false positive tests of antibodies gained attention, the White House recommended testing twice so that the accuracy can be improved. The already testing-facility-lacking US can’t manage that as easily as said.
Antibodies are generated in the body, naturally, by the immune system after the body is infected. The antibodies are responsible for combating the virus. Thus, better antibodies production depicts more ability to recover form the COVID-19 or whichever is infected. And presence of antibodies confirm that the body has been infected previously.
However, major concerns lie in false positive results of the antibodies. If the prevalence and false positive tests rate is 1%, there are 52% chances that the result of the antibody test is wrong. The chances of wrong test further increase with the increase in percentage of false positive tests.
“I started doing the math of what can be done and figured out that we could do a second test,” says Wohl, the director of a program at University of Rochester’s business school to teach entrepreneurship. Wohl thinks that the idea of taking the second test can dramatically reduce the chances of error. He explained that if such technique is used, both the tests must be distinctly different so that there is no possibility of the error due to the same reason.
“When I came up with this idea, I put together a PowerPoint and sent it to the governor’s office in New York and the health department. And it propagated between various government agencies,” he says. Although the response of was quite in favor of his idea, the White House didn’t mention to conduct two different tests. Moreover, no tests are conducted according to the White House guidelines to examine if the concept works.
“One can infer, actually if you look at the guidelines that it’s the same test given twice. But it’s critical that the two tests are uncorrelated,” Wohl says.
Wohl believes that testing twice will be targeting different regions of the virus. But theoretically, there are still chances that both the tests may give false results. This is so because in most of the cases, the reasons behind the causes of false positive are not known.
Schmitz, a pathology professor at UNC, also believes that the idea holds water. He further said that the positive tests for HIV are conducted twice with different kind of tests in order to avoid errors because the consequences of false diagnosis can be worse. According to him, it’ll take a couple of months to get results from his study.