UTRGV to begin COVID-19 antibody testing

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s clinical arm, UT Health RGV, announced Tuesday that it had launched COVID-19 antibody testing in three Valley cities, the latest component in the organization’s pandemic initiatives.

A release from the university says the testing will check residents’ blood for antibodies against COVID-19, which can indicate previous infection, and are available for residents after they have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Collection sites are located at UT Health RGV Multispecialty in Harlingen, UT Health RGV/Knapp Family Health Center in Mercedes and UT Health RGV Primary and Urgent Care in Edinburg.

“We have worked very hard to get ready to offer COVID-19 antibody testing, which is one of the tests offered by our new clinical lab,” UT Health RGV Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Dobbs wrote. “We are excited to offer antibody testing because it will help to identify more candidates who could donate convalescent plasma, a therapy for COVID-19.”

The cost of the test can be billed to insurance with an order from a UT Health RGV physician or a $75 rate will be applied for those without an order, the release stated.

The test is done via intravenous blood draw and the sample is sent to the UT Health RGV lab for results, which will usually have a turnaround time of a day or a day and a half.

“We are using the Abbott Alinity I platform to perform COVID19 IgG antibody testing. The test takes about 20 minutes to execute, and we have the capacity to run 200 samples an hour, or 2000 samples per day,” wrote Dr. John Thomas, UTRGV associate professor of biology and director of COVID-19 operations at the UT Health RGV Clinical Lab. “The machine uses a chemiluminescent approach, which means it uses the emission of light as the result of a chemical reaction, to detect COVID-19. And, it has an accuracy rate greater than 99.5 percent.”

Antibody testing should not replace COVID-19 testing, which the university is continuing to conduct at a rate of roughly 1,200 a day.

To make an appointment for either test, call (833) UTRGVMD (887-4863).