Coronavirus: antibody tests for everyone 'soon' available via GPs

Coronavirus: antibody tests for everyone 'soon' available via GPs
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There is no concrete timing yet, but everyone will "soon" be able to get tested for antibodies against the new coronavirus (Covid-19) with their GP, virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht said.

On Friday, Federal Minister for Public Health Maggie De Block announced that blood tests to detect antibodies against the virus will be made available for everyone in Belgium.

These tests, called serological tests, analyse a blood sample to verify whether someone has been infected with the virus at an earlier time, by looking for the presence of antibodies. "The general practitioner will take a blood sample, and that blood will be sent to a lab," said Van Gucht on Radio 1.

"It is for people who go to the GP with symptoms or are admitted to hospital. If the symptoms have been going on for some time, the nasal swab [of the standard PCR test] is sometimes negative," said Van Gucht. "The blood test for antibodies can then be used to give additional information and make a diagnosis," he added.

People can also ask for a serological test if they are curious as to whether or not they have ever been infected. In those cases, however, people wanting to get tested will have to pay for it themselves, and will probably not be reimbursed. A test costs about €10.

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"If people request such a test when there are no real symptoms present, the chances are very high that the test will be negative. In 94% of the cases, a negative test result will come back," Van Gucht said.

If the test does show that you have antibodies against the virus in your blood, that does not necessarily mean that you are immune. "We do not know enough about that right now. It just shows that you have been infected in the past," he said.

"We do assume that those people have built up some kind of defence. They will probably be better protected from the virus. Maybe they can get it a second time, but then it will be with milder consequences. But we are not entirely sure about that yet," Van Gucht added.

Self-tests, which you can carry out yourself without a doctor and without analysis by a laboratory, are prohibited in Belgium as no coronavirus self-tests offer reliable results so far, said De Block.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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