News & Events
News & Events

National Reference Laboratory Releases New-Iteration COVID-19 Antibody Test Kits

16 Jun 2020
Abu Dhabi

National Reference Laboratory, NRL, part of Mubadala Healthcare’s network, announced the release of new-iteration COVID-19 antibody test kits, known as serology test kits, to the UAE market as part of its drive to supporting the nation’s readiness for combating pandemics, as many organizations consider how to move safely back to the workplace.

While acknowledging that Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, RT-PCR, testing remains the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19, NRL experts are highlighting the benefits of their new serology test kits, stating these complementary antibody tests provide useful information for treating the disease and analyzing its spread, as well as having potential implications for human resource planning.

National Reference Laboratory Releases New-Iteration COVID-19 Antibody Test Kits

Dr. Laila Abdel Wareth, NRL’s Deputy CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, is quick to stress that the new tests are not meant to replace traditional RT- PCR testing, but instead are complementary to them.

"While research is ongoing, for essential high-risk services such as healthcare and home nursing, and other sectors characterized by mass congregations, these test results can help human resources to speculate in an educated way about which employees should be deployed where depending on whether or not they have the antibodies against COVID-19 and, therefore, possible protection against infection. There should be no change in the use of personal protective equipment, PPE, by healthcare workers," Dr Abdel Wareth stressed.

Dr. Abdel Wareth warned individuals against a false sense of security from positive antibody test results. "While anyone can take these tests to determine whether they have been exposed to the virus and have developed antibodies, it does not mean they can ignore precautions, more studies are needed on the protective nature of the antibodies."

Abdul Hamid Oubeisi, CEO of Mubadala Healthcare provider NRL, explained that the serology tests’ potential uses will become increasingly critical in time. "The value will become clearer as we build up more scientific evidence regarding the protective nature of antibodies as well as the necessary concentration and longevity of this protection. In addition, as health authorities and healthcare providers work together to produce a full picture of the nature and spread of the disease, we believe serological testing will be deemed invaluable in managing this and any future pandemics.

"The addition of the new test aligns with NRL’s aim to extend our scope of services to meet the needs of the government and community in understanding and mitigating the effects of COVID-19. Since the start of the outbreak, we have substantially increased our capacity for RT-PCR testing and have added new rapid testing technology and software analysis tools. Serology testing was the natural next step."

Oubeisi reports that NRL reviewed several of the newer serology tests, and selected its test kit based on its high sensitivity and specificity levels, which underscore the test’s accuracy. The chosen kit has a specificity of more than 99.5 percent, NRL has the capacity and resources to turn the results around in few hours.

"Earlier this year, serology test kits flooded global markets before a large number was found not to be sufficiently accurate, and many were being misused as diagnostic tools. However, these tests have undergone increased scrutiny by bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, and improved versions have recently been developed that offer vital information for health authorities, clinicians and employers, one of which NRL has just launched into the UAE market," Oubeisi added.

NRL’s experts have found that The serology results offer insights useful in clinical treatment settings - such as supporting the diagnosis of COVID-19 illness for patients who present late after nine to 14 days of illness; in children presenting with multisystem inflammatory syndrome; and in identifying suitable donors for convalescent plasma therapy. On a larger scale, the information from serology tests can also be used in analyzing the epidemiology of this pandemic to help governments and health authorities develop protective policies and mitigate the impact of the disease.