'High false positive rates': Why medical groups thumb down rapid antibody tests for workers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2020 02:46 AM

Tricycle riders in Marikina City undergo mass testing using rapid test kits for COVID-19 on May 19, 2020 amid the modified enhanced community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Several medical groups have cautioned private companies against using rapid antibody tests for employees, as the government reboots the economy by relaxing quarantine restrictions.

In a statement released Thursday, the groups said using rapid antibody tests may court “unintended harm.”

“Available data shows that various RATs [rapid antibody tests] have high false positive rates and may bestow a false sense of security when results are negative resulting in unintended harm,” they said.

The joint statement was issued by the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine (PSGIM), Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP), Philippine College of Occupational Medicine (PCOM), Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP).

Instead of using rapid antibody tests, the group said the best way to clear people for work is the “14-day test.”

“This means that employees should have no COVID-19 symptoms for at least 14 days from the time of exposure for contacts, and from the time of relief of symptoms for suspect, probable and confirmed cases,” it said.

It added, “This clinical test is more accurate than the RAT, can be feasibly done by occupational health physicians or nurses on asymptomatic individuals, and incurs no additional costs for laboratory procedures.”

This, after Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion berated health workers for not recommending rapid antibody tests to screen employees returning to work.

He said doctors who complained about the use of rapid antibody tests were a "problem," claiming that a return to a strict lockdown would destroy the economy.

Concepcion later apologized for his remark, expressing gratitude for health workers in the frontlines against the crisis.