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Posts Tagged ‘ antibodytesting ’

Antibody Testing.. Fact or Schiznick??

By editor
May 14, 2020


Since there are no sports to entertain us, let’s play a new sport we can do from our homes....we call it “Covid FACT or SCHIZNICK??”  Ok; we COULD call it TRUE or FALSE but what fun is that?

We will make a statement about Covid and you have to figure out if it is FACT..a true-ism, or SCHIZNICK- we are just fooling around. 
OK, ready?  Let’s commence!

The antibody test for Covid will confirm you cannot get re-infected...Got your answer? 
OK… Soooo the answer is-
SCHIZNICK!
Fine; we cheated a little on this one. Yes, if you have IgG antibodies it implies immunity—i.e. you are not going to get re-infected....but three problems;

1. The Covid virus may have mutated, in which case you can still get the mutated form.
2. Covid looks like other corona viruses and the antibody test may have picked up the wrong corona virus.
3. No one knows how long the antibody lasts; experts are guessing 1-3 years. Key word-guessing.
We still advise you get the antibody test--so far it’s been a good marker for immunity.

The antibody test will tell you if you've had Covid19 lately.
And drumroll....
SCHIZNICK!
Unfortunately, data is telling us only 60% of Covid victims will turn IgM positive--and even then it may take four weeks from infecton. But that is the idea of getting the antibody test. If your IgM is positive, you did have Covid lately.

If my Covid antibody is positive, I will still need the vaccine when it is available.
and......
FACT! 
We told you above that it’s unlikely the antibody to Covid will give lifelong immunity ---1-3 years is about it. The vaccine may not give lifelong immunity either, but they are shooting for at least five, maybe 10 years--kind of like a tetanus shot. 

The antibody test may not be "free;” not all insurances are covering it...
Is this a trick question? Doesn't the law require it to be covered?...well.....
FACT!
Here we have the classic case of conflicting facts.  Federal law relieves patient responsibility for "Covid testing" but health plans are allowed to not cover tests that are not FDA approved. Most antibody tests available now are FDA "authorized" as opposed to "approved.” Yes; as Chick Hearn would say, "ticky-tack". So far, our experience is around half of payors are covering it outright and half are "working on it.” For those plans, you may be asked to pay $75 and be reimbursed if and when they do pay, which we predict will happen.  We doubt payors will refuse once the Feds give them a call. 

If someone has had Covid, they will be immune eventually.
Hmmmm and.....
FACT!
Using data from SARS1, MERS, and from Asia and Europe, it appears about 99 % of Covid19 cases will turn IgG positive, implying immunity. But unlike other viruses, it is taking 30-90 days for this to show up. 
So if you tested positive on April 1, it may take until late June to turn the antibody test positive. We say be prepared for a retest if you are checking the antibody too early.

Employers who want to test their staff prior to them returning to work should have them get the antibody test.

Seems obvious right?   Noooooooooooooooooo…
SCHIZNICK!!
This is a double edged sword. To test immunity and know if the staff will not be infected; yes, the antibody test is indicated. But less than 10% of the population is testing positive so far. For the employer to assure customers the staff is not contagious; they should actually get the nasal PCR swab for the actual virus. Ideally they would order BOTH the antibody test for immunity AND the nasal swab for active virus.

How did you do?  Here is the scale-
0-7 correct - You need to keep reading the blogs to increase your Covid knowledge 
8 correct -CONGRATS! You know more than Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates combined!

Gregg DeNicola MD 
Chief Medical Officer 


If you would like to schedule an antibody test or for other any other medical needs including annual exams, urgent care, or medication refills please email us at videovisits@caduceusmedicalgroup.com.


COVID 19 ANTIBODY TESTING- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

By editor
April 29, 2020


Since March 1st, we have evolved—
 
-First there was no test available for Covid 19.
- Then came the nasal PCR swab PCR to show us evidence of the live virus.
-And now, antibody testing has arrived. 
 
Depending on your age, you can hear Roseanne Roseannadanna in the distance.
 I know a lot of you are asking, what is an antibody test? Do I need one? Where do I get this test? Do I have to pay for it or is it free? Do I come to you or do you come to me? Can you do it from my car curbside or do I have to go into the office? Do I see a doctor first? If I have had Covid 19 do I get one? If I haven’t do I get one?   
 
Well dear patients; you sure ask a lot of stupid questions! God bless Gilda Radner looking down with a smile...
 
Of course these are not stupid questions at all.  Let’s answer succinctly.
 
This is a perfect time to bring up the old adage LET THE BUYER BEWARE…
 
The WHO has put out many cautions that the antibody test may not actually predict your immunity. Many experts are also cautioning that the antibody test may not actually predict immunity since COVID-19 is such a new virus; it would be dangerous to rely on a test that has no track record.
 
At Caduceus, we completely agree. On the other hand, it’s “the best we got.” It appears clear that if you need a high degree of assurance of your immunity, you should pass on the antibody test for now.
 
However only by doing antibody tests on a large population of people will we be able to find out if it’s accurate. A true catch 22.
 
Covid 19 is a virus and when it is in your body acts as an antigen. Your body forms antibodies to fight off the virus.  You need a test to find out if you've had Covid 19 and to check for immunity.
 
Some health plans are paying for it; others will not tell us yet. You may be asked to pay $75 if it’s unclear your health plan will reimburse for it. We are also offering a cash price for those uninsured of $99 which includes the video visit screening and curbside antibody test from your car. 
 
Caduceus is only doing testing curbside. The staff will be bundled up well in PPE. We advise against having the test inside a medical office or hospital. At Caduceus, a physician’s order is required, and the doctor will help you interpret the test. It is NOT a simple positive/negative as with the PCR nasal swab.
 
You SHOULD consider having one no matter if you've had Covid 19 or not. 
 
Two cautionary tales…
 1.  In our opinion, antibody tests available prior to April 20th are very suspect. Distributors were frankly “shady” and prices were all over the map, there were high false negative rates, and no FDA emergency blessing. We searched high and low to find one that we are comfortable with recommending for our patients and the community at large.   All antibody tests are NOT the same. Before having one vetted, stay away from sites that charge over $125, do not require a doctor’s order, give you results in two minutes, require you to enter a lobby with other possibly sick patients, or in general appears sketchy. This is one test you may want to avoid the “Motel 6 variety.” Hold out for the “Four Seasons” version. 2.  Studies are showing it may take up to 90 days for the antibody to “show up” on the tests. If you were exposed in early March that means ideally you'd be tested in June. Realizing most patients will not want to wait, be prepared to be re-tested in the summer if you test negative now.

 
Let’s have a little fun....and play doctor....NO not that game!  Instead I’ll give you FOUR short cases and you guess which is the right test; nasal PCR swab or blood antibody?
 
Case 1-
Suzy is 44 and has a fever, cough, and loss of taste for the last week. Two weeks ago she went to the grocery without a mask and the deli worker did sneeze a couple of times near her. What test should she have?  ANSWER- Nasal swab. It will show active Covid 19 virus accurately. The antibody test will be negative for weeks more. 
 
Case 2-
Sam is 55 and went to a New Year’s Eve party where a couple were coughing and saying they were “getting over a flu bug.”  A week later, he spiked a high temperature, started coughing, and had chills and body aches. He went to an urgent care where they diagnosed the flu and gave him Tamiflu. It took two weeks to recover, and Sam now believes he may have actually had Covid 19 since the couple at the party was hosting a Chinese exchange student over holiday break.  What test for Sam?  ANSWER - antibody test.  The virus is most likely out of his body but the antibody test will reveal if he has antibodies against Covid 19, thus confirming that was his proper diagnosis in January. 
 
Case 3-
Tammy is 26 with an active social life and who also cares for her frail 79 year old grandfather. A month ago, a close friend tested positive for Covid 19. A week later, Tammy had a mild sore throat and low grade fever for two days. She did not get tested. She wants to be sure she is not a carrier so she does not spread Covid 19 to her friends or grandfather. Which test to order?  ANSWER- A PCR nasal swab will rule out her being contagious. An antibody test does not test for active virus but would tell Tammy if she indeed had Covid 19 but NOT if she’s a contagious carrier. 
 
Case 4-
Joe is 50 and has been furloughed from his job for a month now. He has been well, with no symptoms or known exposure. His boss has announced his intent to reopen the office and resume operations sometime in May, but he is requiring all staff to show whether they have had Covid 19 and if they are immune.  What test does Joe ask for?  Answer- An antibody test will actually give Joe TWO results on antibodies; IgM will tell us if he has had Covid 19 recently. IgG will confirm immunity. A PCR nasal swab fails on these criteria. 
 
Did you have a perfect score at FOUR for FOUR? If so we may want to deputize you! I mean every Sheriff Taylor needs his Barney right?

Gregg DeNicola MD
Chief Medical Officer
Caduceus Medical Group

 

Please follow these directions to request an antibody test:

  • Email videovisits@caduceusmedicalgroup.com and include your full name, date of birth, cell phone, and if you are not an existing patient any insurance information or if you will be paying cash. 
  • A staff member will email you back same day between the hours of 8-5 M-F.
  • You will be scheduled for a video visit antibody screening (just like a Facetime call) from the comfort of your home on your cell phone or other mobile device.  If you do  not have a cell phone you can also use a laptop or desktop and to guarantee the best connection we do recommend using a mobile device.
  • The medical provider will review with you on the video call the four possible readings and then direct you to one of our two curbside testing sites in Yorba Linda or Laguna Beach.
  • You will receive a call back from a staff member or provider the same day to review your results.  

Covid 19- Our CMO Answers Your Questions

By editor
April 14, 2020

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OUR CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER GREGG DENICOLA MD

Is this the real life? 

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide; no escape from reality.

Freddie Mercury did not know his lyrics would be so prophetic when he wrote them 45 years ago. He asked two very poignant questions but never really answered them, unless you count Scaramouche, Galileo, or Figaro as an artistic reply. 

We will use this blog to answer three common questions that have been popping up in our emails. (Disclaimer- these answers are based on solid facts, but ARE still opinions. Expert opinions may vary.)

1. I feel fine. But can I be an asymptomatic carrier? If so, when will I not be?

2. What’s the deal with the antibody tests? When can I get one? My employer wants me to have one before they let me return.

3. Are things getting even a LITTLE better? As CMO when do you feel it’s safe to end the quarantine?

1. If you have no symptoms, and an accurate IGM antibody or nasal PCR test shows a Covid19 infection, you are an asymptomatic carrier.

It doesn't matter if you had symptoms and now are resolved, or never had symptoms. A positive PCR swab is the gold standard to determine if you are contagious. It IS possible to have viral particles in your nose and NOT be contagious. We just don't know if you are or not. No test exists to determine that. An antibody test does NOT tell you if you are contagious.

Keep in mind COVID19 is also called SARS2-- SARS 1 began in China in 2002 and is also a coronavirus so we do have some precedent to which we can look back. Using data from previous SARS outbreaks from Asia and Europe, the virus hangs around for at least three weeks and possibly three months or longer. Can it last a year? Or...gasp...forever? Hopefully not, but we simply do not have the data to tell us that answer. 

What if a person is a month out from having the infection but keeps testing positive? Assume they are contagious. 

Our answer?

If you have symptoms, GET TESTED. If you have exposure, GET TESTED. If you are positive, KEEP GETTING TESTED. If you are positive, STAY ISOLATED
Do not bother with an antibody test. Get a nasal PCR. Caduceus has ample tests as of this writing. 

2. Antibody tests are available through almost every drive through location, even big box stores. Caduceus has them available. But beware of false promises.  A quick “Antibody 101,” we receive two readings; IGM, which tells us if you've been infected recently and also an IGG which theoretically confirms immunity--that is, are you protected from a future infection, such as is the case with measles. 

Looking at SARS data from a few years ago, only 55% of patients converted a positive swab to an IGM. So to tell of a recent infection, it is pretty lousy if this SARS is similar to the last one.  But 99% DID convert the IGG by 90 days from infection. So the antibody test is not really useful until months after the infection appeared.  Again…that’s IF this SARS is like previous SARS. (DISCLOSURE-I am quoting ONE study from China. We have no idea if this SARS2 is going to act like SARS1.)

We hear many employers "requiring" antibody tests before allowing staff to return to work. That logic is fine if all they care about is immunity, but to allow the employer to say they have a virus-free workplace they really need the PCR nasal swab. Also, IGG antibody may take months to show. We may want to rethink the value of antibody tests for now.

One reasonable time to check with an antibody test is for those who feel they may have had Covid 19 in December or January and are now recovered. A negative antibody screen now would essentially rule out that possibility. 

Our answer? 

There is little reason to have an  antibody test at this time. A repeat nasal swab after symptoms have resolved is the gold standard. An antibody test 2-3 months from the infection would add reassurance the patients is both IMMUNE AND NON- CONTAGIOUS.

3. Globally and nationally, the numbers are stabilizing. Here in Orange County we are seeing less demand for testing and less positives per day.  One obvious reason is we are seeing less infections in general. In fact, almost none. Usually this time of year we see:

  • Strep throat--now? Nope.
  • Hand foot and mouth? Nada.
  • Roseola? Nix. 
  • Viral respiratory infections? Forget it.
  • Stomach flu? Negatory.

And STD’s? Haven’t seen the requisite case of gonorrhea or chlamydia in months; monogamy and celibacy appears to have cured that--for now.  Why? Because no one is coming in contact with anyone. Even housemates can’t spread something they can’t catch. We may have found the answer to cure all infections....life long quarantines. 

As the number of new cases fall, we may see the social isolation loosening, and masks, and X’s on store floors, but we must be concerned about a "second wave" of Covid 19.  Almost certainly we will have one. Until we have herd immunity, via a vaccine, the carriers will infect others. 

So ending the quarantine? 

Our answer?

If you want someone to diagnose and treat Covid 19, we’ve got this.For the cost/benefit analysis of effectiveness of loosening the quarantine, you'll need to ask our president, or governor, or Dr. Fauci, or Bill Gates. Maybe even Jake from State Farm. I'm thinking his guess is as good as anyone’s.

Gregg DeNicola MD
Chief Medical Officer
Caduceus Medical Group