This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. | Credit: NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), U.S. NIH

A diagnostic test for people who suspect they had COVID-19 in the recent past just came on the market through Quest Diagnostics. The testing company, which has nine storefronts in Santa Barbara County, stated in a press release today that by filling out an online form regarding symptoms, after it’s reviewed, customers could schedule a blood draw for a serology test. Quest claimed it can run more than one million tests a week and return results within one or two days, although its website states a large demand is delaying test results by about a week. Its big testing facility in California is in San Juan Capistrano.

The test examines blood serum for the presence of coronavirus antibodies, and the two used by Quest — Abbott Labs and Euroimmun — have a high specificity, close to 100 percent, for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Quest’s literature warns that the test is not entirely diagnostic for COVID-19 and that medical researchers remain uncertain that having antibodies confers immunity to the disease.

Quest stated that people with active disease and symptoms do not qualify for this serology test. It identifies immunoglobulin G antibodies (abbreviated to IgG), which develop in reaction to the disease; it can take 10-18 days for enough IgG to be made in the body to show up on a test like this one.

Results from the tests come through PWNHealth, a national company that liaisons between labs like Quest and patients. A licensed medical professional, the press release stated, with PWNHealth can discuss the results via a tele-medicine chat.

A company representative stated the test cost is about $130. Governor Gavin Newsom had earlier ordered that COVID-19 testing would be free in California; the company rep, who described his morning in New Jersey as “slammed” after the news dropped, was not able to reply on whether the order applied to Quest’s serology test.

Although the test for antibodies is somewhat inconclusive, the result is provided to federal and local health authorities, as are all results stemming from the pandemic. The accumulation of information will help provide a larger picture of the disease in the state, one of the governor’s criteria for reopening nonessential businesses.

Correction: Quest can run 1 million COVID-19 antibody tests a week, not per day.


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