Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Opinion
Faye Flam

Antibody Tests Aren't Accurate, But You Can Still Buy One

There are no clear lifesaving benefits to detecting past Covid-19 infections — and obvious risk of harm if the tests give misleading results.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Photographer: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Doctors, medical administrators and consumers are falling for misleading marketing of Covid-19 antibody tests. And the FDA has exerted almost no oversight over a hodgepodge of different tests that have come on the market since April, promoted with a blitz of direct emails to clinics and hospitals that tout the tests’ ability to detect past infections of SARS-CoV2.

The FDA made the opposite mistake with the diagnostic tests meant to flag active infections. Those rolled out too slowly, when even imperfect tests would have saved lives at that early stage. There’s no reason to rush out antibody tests since there are no clear lifesaving benefits to detecting past infections — and obvious risk of harm if the tests give misleading results.