People are being informed of coronavirus antibody results within 48 hours of testing, after the Government’s policy was altered.
The test, one of several types of test available, flags up the immune markers showing that a person has been exposed to the virus causing Covid-19.
Antibodies are produced by the immune system once the body has defeated an infection, enabling it to attack if the virus or bacterium attempts to return.
Members of the public who went to drive-through testing at Southside last week contacted The Royal Gazette questioning why they were not being given the results of their antibody tests.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, explained last Friday that the Government was using antibody test results to see “to what extent the population has been exposed to Covid” but said the PCR test was the “gold standard”.
The PCR test, which takes its name from “polymerise chain reaction”, spots the presence of viral genetic material.
Ms Wilson said of the antibody test: “It’s more for data collection at this point.”
But people getting the test over the weekend said that their antibody test results were now being shared with them.
David Burt cautioned last night that positive results were not released directly to patients, but sent to their doctors.
The Premier was joined at the Covid-19 briefing by Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s chief of medicine and a specialist on infectious disease.
Dr Ashton said the hospital was not currently offering its own antibody test, but outsourcing to private labs.
He said the implications of the antibody results were “still to be determined”.
But he added that properly vetted tests “could likely say” whether a person had been exposed to the virus.
Dr Ashton said the antibody tests should not be used for diagnostic purposes for an individual patient.
He added: “However, there is value in doing epidemiological studies. What that will allow us to do is understand the prevalence of a disease on the island, and help our physicians further interpret the PCR tests and any further tests based on prevalence that’s measured.”
Mr Burt said the Southside lab had conducted a total of 1,015 rapid antibody tests: 81 on people in quarantine, and 934 on the general public.
He said that in the general public, “thus far 2.8 did test positive for either the IgM or IgG antibodies”.
The acronyms refer to the immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G antibody groups,
Dr Ashton said a procedure should be in place for the interpretation of testing.
He added: “That’s best done through a discussion with a physician.
“These are difficult times to interpret these test results, and I would encourage patients, when they have results, to discuss it with their physicians.”
Dr Ashton said he often fielded questions from doctors, and could help with “themes” in talks over test results.