ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Did you have coronavirus and not know it? Antibody testing in New Mexico will begin on Monday. For now, it is only available to certain people. TriCore Reference Laboratories will be able to test up to 300 people a day starting Monday, but you will need a healthcare provider’s order to get one. Quest Diagnostics is also offering antibody testing to anyone who provides a doctor’s order.
The blood test will identify people who have been exposed to the virus or recovered from it by detecting antibodies that are produced by the immune system in response to a COVID-19 infection. TriCore said the antibodies usually appear six to ten days after someone is infected.
Since the test is limited, the New Mexico Medical Advisory Team made recommendations to clinics on who they should refer to get tested. This includes patients who recovered by serious respiratory tract infections during the pandemic and are suspected of having coronavirus.
It also includes family members of COVID-19 patients who did not show symptoms. Healthcare providers said this will help trace the spread of the virus.
TriCore said it also may be useful for plasma as people could give blood with antibodies to those who are still sick with the disease. However, the lab said there is no evidence that those with antibodies are immune to the virus.
“All we know is that if you have an antibody to the coronavirus, you have been exposed in the past or you were known to have the illness,” TriCore Chief Scientific Officer David Grenache said. “You had a diagnosis, and you have recovered and your immune system has antibodies, but we don’t know yet if the antibodies mean you are immune from getting sick again.”
Other states have started random antibody sampling. In New York, 3,000 people were randomly tested. It showed one of every five New York residents tested positive. The New York governor said if this pattern holds, it means more than two million New Yorkers never knew they had the virus and survived. This will be key when governments decide if they should reopen.
New Mexico still does not have the tests for random sampling yet, but TriCore said they hope to increase their testing capacity in the weeks ahead. TriCore also said they are not sure how long it will take for them to get test results back as it depends on how many orders are coming in.