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Across the U.S., a range of businesses are throwing in antibody tests with their normal services amid a surge in demand during the coronavirus pandemic, though health experts caution that many have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a Tuesday report.
In Los Angeles County, a flotation therapy studio is offering the tests for $149, while workers at a botox clinic collect blood samples from customers with the prick of a finger. In Las Vegas, a clinic is offering antibody tests with a doctor visit for $169 while a chiropractic clinic in Florida is offering them for $125.
Many who seek out antibody tests do so for peace of mind, to be able to not wear masks, or prove to employers they can safely return to work.
Health experts cited by the Los Angeles Times, however, warn that many of these antibody tests may not be reliable and, in some cases, might be jeopardizing public health.
There is no clear consensus on whether antibodies prevent reinfection of COVID-19, and regulators have not cleared most tests that have hit the market, the Times reported. The FDA has only given emergency authorization to 12 tests.
Jim Flanigan, executive vice president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, said the tests being sold in places unconventional places “truly could be snake oil.”
“Without that, people can claim whatever they like and there seems to be no recourse,” he said.
Antibody tests are used to determine if a patient has been exposed to the virus in the past. The tests can range anywhere from a few weeks – if the patient’s blood sample is shipped to a lab – to 10 minutes, if the patient’s finger is pricked for a drop of blood.
The tests are useful for giving health officials a better understanding of the virus’s reach. But the pandemic has caused an explosion of dubious testing.
Danielle Ompad, a professor of epidemiology at New York University, told the Times that people should stick to only the tests that have received emergency authorization from the FDA.