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Columbia lab seeing increase in antibody testing


A diagnostics laboratory in Columbia says it plans to increase antibody testing.

Helix Specialty Diagnostics started performing serology tests, also known as antibody tests, on May 11. Antibody tests can show if someone had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Michael Paulsen, a Helix Specialty Diagnostics owner, says their main clients are businesses who want to test their employees.

"The real thing that we're looking at is every employer out there has to put together a plan to bring their employees back to work," Paulsen said. "Nobody is saying yet that you get 100% immunity by having the antibody, but it's one piece of the puzzle that employers can use to put their plan together."

To date, Helix has performed roughly 200 antibody tests and Dr. William Thornton, a co-owner and vice president of technology for Helix, says around 92% of those tests have come back negative.

"The disease is not that prevalent if you think about this area, we're not really testing a lot of people out of the higher populated areas like St. Louis, St. Louis County," Thornton said. "So overall, in Boone County or in the Missouri region the prevalence is fairly low."

Dr. Thornton said Helix Specialty Diagnostics has a capacity of 360 tests per day and is CLIA accredited.

The Centers for Disease Control says some antibody testing may be inaccurate. According to new guidance posted on the CDC website, antibody tests might be wrong up to half the time.

Dr. Randall Williams, the state health department director, voiced his thoughts on the accuracy of antibody testing in the governor's state address Wednesday.

"We're very much concerned with that as people talk about in July and August that you'll be doing a lot more antibody testing," Williams said. "Every time a test comes back positive, it's less likely to be truly positive than in a county that has lots and lots of cases."

Dr. Thornton says the lab goes through the steps necessary to validate any method they are doing. He said the lab relies on finding traces of the Immunoglobulin G antibodies in test samples to determine if the person had COVID-19.

Normally, a patient who wants to get tested will have their blood drawn, the blood will be processed, then Helix Diagnostics will test it. Patients will receive their result through email and an interpretation on result.

Helix charges $100 per antibody test which normally takes around one day to get results.

Boone / Columbia / Health / Mid-Missouri Business / Missouri / News / Top Stories
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Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto anchors the weekend morning and weekday 9 a.m. & noon newscasts for ABC 17. You can find up-to-the-minute information on Zach’s social media, @ABC17Zach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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