Quest Diagnostics launches first consumer-ordered COVID-19 antibody test

For about $120, anyone can get now get a COVID-19 antibody test from Quest Diagnostics. 

The lab company announced Tuesday it launched the first consumer-ordered test—yes, that means there's no doctor referral needed—to allow patients to check whether they have the antibodies that indicate they've had the novel coronavirus and may have some immunity to it. 

The test will be available through QuestDirect, which is Quest's consumer-initiated testing business. Antibody testing uses blood serum specimens and is sometimes referred to as serology testing. Blood draws will be available with an appointment at all of Quest Diagnostics' 2,200 patient service centers.  

Each test will be reviewed by a licensed physician, and consumers will have the opportunity to speak to a doctor about their results, officials said. 

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Results will be available within one to two days of the blood draw.      

The announcement comes exactly a week after Quest announced the launch of its COVID-19 antibody test service for healthcare providers to order on behalf of patients. 

"While the science on COVID-19 is evolving, testing for antibodies may identify people who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 and might have mounted an immune response to the virus," said Jay Wohlgemuth, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for Quest Diagnostics, in a statement.  "Our goal is to empower individuals and their physicians to make informed decisions about their risk of infection and of spreading the virus." 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is not yet known whether the development of antibodies provides protection from reinfection nor how long such protection lasts.

However, COVID-19 antibody testing has drawn great interest because it could help indicate whether individuals have been exposed and may have developed at least some immunity to COVID-19. 

Antibody testing was among the steps Deborah Birx, M.D., the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, detailed earlier this month as part of the criteria states and cities should use to determine when and how they should begin opening different segments of their respective economies.

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Health officials have specifically wanted to target at-risk workforces, such as front-line health workers, with the antibody testing.

The expanded testing also comes at a pivotal time for Quest. The company is cutting pay and benefits and furloughing employees after seeing saw an almost 40% drop in profit to $99 million in the first quarter compared to the same quarter a year earlier, CNBC reported.