Giving PCR a helping hand
Although, in general, PCR tests are more sensitive than serological tests, they are also more prone to producing false-negative results. The addition of immunodiagnostic tests, in the diagnostic process, could help reduce false negatives and could aid in the identification of people who are unknowingly spreading the disease.
"The COVID-19 virus mutates rapidly which is a serious challenge for accurate testing. Stringent and continuous testing of the population is important, which can be done using a combination of both PCR and antibody testing," Hauser said.
Tracking of the infected, asymptomatic population using antibody testing, could help to stop further spread of the virus, particularly in the early stages of an outbreak. While a good number of infected people show symptoms, many are asymptomatic and do not show symptoms.
“PCR tests cannot help identify asymptomatic people. For that, you need serological testing,” Hauser said.
Immunodiagnostic antibody tests are an important tool because they can detect antibodies in symptomatic and asymptomatic populations. And it's important to test for antibodies, even though it can be challenging, as only people with symptoms tend to seek medical help. For these, and many other reasons, Hauser's team is working overtime to make faster, easier detection of the virus, and the antibodies leftover from infection, a life-saving reality.