Health Canada authorizes first blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies

In a statement released on May 12, Health Canada has announced that it has authorized the first use of blood tests, known as serological tests in Canadian laboratories to detect the COVID-19 virus’ specific antibodies.

The statement also said that conducting these tests would give a greater understanding relating to those infected by COVID-19 and if their past infection could grant them immunity from the virus.

“Serological testing will contribute to a better understanding of whether people who have been infected by Covid-19 are immune to the virus,” said in the statement by Health Canada.

“Further research will also help us fully understand the relationship between positive antibody tests and protection against re-infection.” 

According to Health Canada, at least one million Canadian blood samples will be collected and tested over two years. Those tests will track the virus in both the general population and at-risk groups that have a higher chance of being infected, such as senior citizens and healthcare workers.

Blood tests for the virus may potentially become a norm as the pandemic continues, as the practice will help limit the spread and understand the virus.

In late April, Emirate Airlines became the first airline to conduct rapid on-site blood tests for passengers before boarding. This may be what many companies will be doing in the near future to create a better understanding of the virus.  

Private companies worldwide have already created rapid blood tests that could provide results in minutes, with tests already approved for use in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Expert opinion

Blood tests may help find the virus within people who are infected with COVID-19 but feel no symptoms. 

Experts believe that blood testing is beneficial in the race to understand the virus and the antibody effectiveness.

Dawn Bowdish, the Canada Research Chair in aging and immunity at McMaster University says that blood testing could be “the gold standard of understanding the spread of this infection”.

Respirologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto Dr. Samir Gupta says that the antibody tests could be a “potential gamechanger”.

The testing will ultimately assist in informing public health decisions that will protect the health of Canadians.

Health Canada said that it would be using the LIAISON test, which is developed by Italian biotech company DiaSorin and was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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