The former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, said in an interview today that many of the coronavirus antibody tests on the market are “junk.”
Right now, Frieden said, “there are many tests on the market and many of them – now that I can speak very freely that I’m not in the government – many of them are junk.”
The comments came in a live-streamed interview with STAT’s Helen Branswell.
Frieden, who served as CDC director under President Barack Obama, said “there are many bad tests, inaccurate tests on the market.”
Referring to a historical surge in the diversity of species, he said we’re going to see “a kind of Cambrian explosion, and then a winnowing down of the tests out there, so that we have more tests that are reliable.”
About Antibody tests: Antibody tests are useful because they can detect past infections, including mild or asymptomatic cases. That’s important for researchers looking to understand how widespread the virus really is.
The tests could also offer insight into who might have some protection against future infections, although it’s unclear how long immunity might last.
Only one coronavirus antibody test is currently authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration. The agency, though, has released guidance allowing unauthorized antibody tests to be distributed during the pandemic.