There are limits to coronavirus antibody testing, AMA warns

Physicians and the general public should be cautious about the use of antibody testing for identifying previous COVID-19 infections, and they should especially be cautious of using the tests to determine if a person is immune to the new coronavirus, the American Medical Association warned.

Per a new guidance released by the association May 14, while antibody tests may play a key role in identifying the overall prevalence of COVID-19 in the U.S. population, including among those who do not show symptoms, the testing has inherent limitations.

The limitations include antibody tests currently on the market showing a significant number of false positive results. These tests may also identify antibodies for other coronaviruses, such as those that cause the common cold.

Also, a vast majority of more than 120 tests on the market have not been authorized by the FDA, and the association urges physicians to note the regulatory status of all available coronavirus antibody tests.

Thus, the association recommends that "currently available antibody tests not be used as the sole basis of diagnosing COVID-19, and not be offered to individuals as a method of determining immune status."

The test should not be used to support decisions on returning to work or ending physical distancing, the association said.

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