Coronavirus: at-home antibody tests are no longer banned, but the FAMHP warns against misinterpreting the result

The sale of at-home tests detecting antibodies against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) will no longer be prohibited as of 19 September 2020. However, the FAMHP warns users that there are still significant reservations about the accuracy of both negative and positive results. These at-home tests may give users a false sense of security or cause them unnecessary anxiety.

At-home antibody tests can be performed without the need for a doctor or other healthcare professional to collect the sample or to interpret the test result. At-home antibody tests show whether a person has developed antibodies against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This test therefore cannot determine whether it is an active novel coronavirus infection or whether or not the person is contagious.

As a precaution, the sale of at-home tests was banned in March 2020 for a period of six months because there were no compliant at-home tests available on the market. The risk of misinterpretation by the user was, and still remains, too high. As compliant at-home tests may be available shortly, the sale ban has not been extended past 19 September 2020.

The FAMHP understands that citizens would like to be able to quickly obtain information about their own health, but warns that the results of an at-home test are not easily interpreted. Misinterpretation of the result could lead to non-compliance withthe recommended social distancing and hygiene rules.

What should I do if I have a positive result?

The at-home antibody test detects antibodies against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In some cases, this may be a false positive. The test may not have detected antibodies against the new coronavirus, but may instead have found antibodies against another cold virus belonging to the same group of viruses. Other factors present in the blood can also give a false positive result.

A positive result does not guarantee that you have or have had COVID-19, that you are immune, or that you are currently contagious. A positive result is, however, an important warning sign that you shouldn’t ignore. Make sure you strictly follow preventative measures: keep your distance, wear a face mask when recommended and wash your hands regularly with soap and water. You should also contact your doctor to confirm the test result. A positive result does not in any way guarantee that you are or will be immune and therefore cannot (or can no longer) become infected.

Do you also have cold symptoms in addition to the positive at-home test? Stay home for at least seven days and have as little contact as possible with others, including the people you live with. Use disposable tissues and throw them straight in the bin. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow. Wash your hands regularly and wear a face mask.

Are your symptoms getting worse (difficulty breathing, high fever, etc.) ? Contact your doctor immediately.

What should I do if I have a negative result?

The at-home antibody test did not detect any antibodies against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In some cases, this may be a false negative result. There may well be antibodies in your body, but in too small a quantity for them to be detected. This can be the case if you’ve only recently been infected (less than two weeks ago) or if your body is not producing high enough levels of antibodies. Furthermore, some antibodies are only present in the body for a few months.

A negative test result does not guarantee that you do not or have never had COVID-19, nor does it confirm whether or not you are currently contagious.

Do you have cold symptoms in addition to the negative at-home test? Since the at-home test does not provide complete certainty, you should assume you have COVID-19. You can contact your doctor to find out if another test is needed. In the meantime, try to avoid leaving your home and have as little contact as possible with others, including the people you live with. Use disposable tissues and throw them straight in the bin. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow. Wash your hands regularly and wear a face mask.

Are your symptoms getting worse (difficulty breathing, high fever, etc.) ? Contact your doctor immediately.

How reliable are at-home tests at detecting antibodies to the novel coronavirus?

At-home antibody tests analyse a drop of blood taken from a finger prick. Finger-prick tests are less reliable than similar tests performed on a blood sample in clinical laboratories. Due to their highly variable reliability, these tests have a higher risk of giving false positive or false negative results. Counterfeit tests are also circulating on the Internet. If you want to purchase an at-home test, make sure you do so from a trusted source, such as your pharmacist.

 

Still have questions about at-home antibody tests? Consult our "questions and answers".

Last updated on
24/09/2020