AMA Issues Guidance on Physician Use of COVID-19 Antibody Tests

On May 14, 2020, The American Medical Association (AMA) issued guidance cautioning physicians and the general public about the use of serology, or antibody, testing to determine individual immunity to COVID-19. More specifically, while these tests may be helpful in determining the overall prevalence of COVID-19 in the U.S. population, these tests have several inherent limitations. First, they can provide false positive results, leading individuals to believe they are immune when in fact they may be able to acquire and transmit the virus. Second, some of these tests may suffer from “cross-reactivity,” where the test identifies not only antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 but to other viruses as well, thus falsely indicating that the patient had been infected with COVID-19. Finally, much is still unknown about COVID-19 and it is still unclear exactly what “immunity” those who are recovering from infection may have or how long it may last. The AMA provides several recommendations for the use and reliance on serology tests.

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