Breakthrough COVID-19 antibody test with nearly 100% accuracy can help reopen economy

The UW Medicine Virology Lab is one of the first in the country to get a new Abbott test that checks your blood for a special COVID-19 antibody.

“This is an important, new type of testing that we haven’t had access to before,” said Keith Jerome, the director of the UW Medicine.

The lab said since Abbott developed the new antibody test, UW researchers have been working 24/7 to verify the test’s effectiveness. Scientists said Friday they found the test can determine if someone had COVID with nearly 100% accuracy.

“It showed a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 99.6%,” said Alex Greniger, assistant director of the UW Virology Lab. “Diagnostically, this is one of the best tests we can offer,” he said.

They say that means it’s a test that can help reopen the economy and get people back to work.

“This is another turning point in the fight against this virus,” Jerome said.

The test specifically looks for what’s called an IgG antibody – something your immune system makes after you get sick from COVID-19.

Abbott explains the IgG antibody “is a protein that the body produces in the late stages of infection and may remain for up to months and possibly years after a person has recovered.”

Unlike the nasal swab to check for the actual virus, this test requires a blood draw.

That vial of blood would get sent to UW labs and you’ll know if you’ve already been infected and have protection from the virus.

Right now, the UW Virology Lab can run 4,000 of the Abbott antibody tests a day. More equipment already on the way, which will quickly ramp up that capacity.

“Within just a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to do 12,000 to 14,000 a day. And this starts to get the point where we can make a difference in the population of our area, get people back to work,” Jerome said.