These 2 ‘crucial and very different’ tests could help us contain the coronavirus

| | April 17, 2020
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Credit: ABC
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Amidst a slew of shortages and logistical hurdles, American researchers are now slowly rolling out two crucial and very different tests to fight the COVID-19 pandemic: one that can detect an ongoing SARS-CoV-2 infection and another that can tell if the pathogen already passed through the body.

These two tests aren’t interchangeable, but they are complementary—and together, they’re likely to play a crucial role in giving health workers and the public the information they need to contain and end this pandemic.

In an ideal world, everyone would have access to both types of tests to get a full picture of their infection status, past and present, [immunologist Akiko] Iwasaki says. But in the United States, tests remain in short supply.

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Given this limited capacity, health care workers should be among the first people tested, Iwasaki says. Those with active infections could then seek treatment, keeping both them and their patients out of harm’s way, while those with antibodies in their blood might be able to care for the sick under less risk.

Tests alone won’t solve this global crisis, [infectious disease expert Alexander] McAdam says; they’re a guide for infection control measures, not a replacement for them.

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