Austin Public Health director cautions residents against unauthorized antibody tests

FDA testing
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said on June 3 residents should only acquire antibody tests with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said on June 3 residents should only acquire antibody tests with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Residents who use some unauthorized antibody tests to determine if they have contracted COVID-19 may be vulnerable to receiving false test results, one local health care official said in a recent interview.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said during a June 3 webinar with Concordia University Texas officials that residents should be wary of antibody tests when shopping to determine if they have previously been infected with the coronavirus.

“There are so many companies now that are marketing antibody tests,” Hayden said. “I caution folks to be very careful because those antibody tests that are on the market, you want to make sure they have received emergency use authorization from the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration.]”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 28 released guidance for health care providers, laboratory professionals and public health professionals using antibody tests.

Part of that guidance was that health care professionals only administer antibody tests that have received emergency use authorization from the FDA. As of publication, a total of 86 separate COVID-19 infection or antibody tests have been certified by the FDA.


Antibody tests are separate from coronavirus tests in that they do not test if an individual is actively sick with the infectious disease, but rather tests to see if an individual has had COVID-19 in the past. According to the CDC, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose if an individual has a current COVID-19 infection.

The CDC recommended physicians do not use antibody tests to determine an individual’s immunity to COVID-19 until evidence confirms that antibodies in fact provide protection from future infection.

During the webinar interview with Dr. Glendene Lemard Marlow, associate professor of global health and economic development for Concordia, Hayden discussed several areas of concern with the coronavirus in Austin.

Local health care officials, including Hayden and Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s interim health authority, said earlier June 3 that protestors who demonstrated in downtown Austin on the May 31 weekend should sign up for a free coronavirus test through the city’s public enrollment forum.

“It is going to be pretty hard to social distance in a protest, especially when a protest has such a huge following and large crowd of people,” Hayden said. “We are anticipating that we may have a spike in cases.”

Hayden continued to say that the city of Austin has capacity to provide more tests at its free COVID-19 testing sites.

Local officials are also currently planning for future spikes in coronavirus cases, Hayden said during the webinar. According to the APH director, modeling data that has been shared with the city of Austin predicts another wave of cases to occur later this summer.

“We anticipate there may be a little spike in July. ... There may also be a spike during [next year’s] flu season,” Hayden said.

Flu season in Texas historically begins picking up in November and peaks sometime in February, according to annual data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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