/ 16 March 2021

National Health Laboratory calls for participants to test antibody tests

Vials With Blood Samples For A Covid 19 Antibody Test Seen
Covid-19 has had a negative impact on blood donations; blood conservation has become a priority. (Photo by Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The National Health Laboratory Service is looking for people to participate in a study aimed at evaluating the performance of Covid-19 rapid antibody tests.

Samples collected from the participants will be used to create banks of known positive and negative controls that scientists around the country can use to quickly and accurately test any rapid or serological tests, which check for antibodies to the novel coronavirus.

The 300 participants who will voluntarily be taking part in the study must have either once tested positive for Covid-19 or been in contact with someone who had tested positive but themselves tested negative.

With the virus constantly mutating, the study that started last year will continuously re-evaluate these tests’ performance against any newer strains that may begin to circulate.

The study’s principal investigator, pathologist Professor Elizabeth Mayne, said that the collected samples would form the backbone of the serology (antibody) validation cohort.

“The NHLS needs to test the performance of commercial assays (tests), including those that test for antibodies against SARS-CoV2 (both formal or lab-based assays and rapid tests).”

But for this study, instead of reporting on the data about the prevalence of antibodies (seroprevalence data), the study will evaluate the test performance.  

For the study, participants will be asked to share information such as age, underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and chronic lung diseases and any medications being taken. The participants will also be asked when they tested positive or negative, their travel history, and any symptoms.

The rapid tests used are from across the world, including Europe, Asia, America, and some from South African scientists.

Other countries have used these tests for similar studies, but according to Mayne, the performance data has been inconsistent and/or mixed, where they either performed well in some studies and poorly in others.

South Africa has one of the most rigorous processes worldwide. 

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Vaccine Queue Calculator for South Africa