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Private mobile lab offering blood testing services for COVID-19 antibodies

CALGARY — A Calgary-based private mobile lab company is offering blood testing to detect antibodies associated with COVID-19.

Ichor Blood Services says it charges $75 plus GST for each home collection visit, with the cost of the antibody test itself at $120 plus tax per person — a family of four would pay $555 plus tax.

CEO Mike Kuzmickas, a mechanical engineer who worked in oil and gas before creating Ichor in January, says the COVID-19 serology testing is being added to promote its core business of in-home blood and urine sample collection.

He says the company has a dozen collection staff working between Calgary and Edmonton, and one person in Toronto, and plans to expand into the Alberta cities of Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

The testing is done by partner StageZero Life Sciences at a laboratory in Virginia and results, which are said to be 99 per cent accurate, are then provided to the patient or employer through a secure online portal.

Kuzmickas says people are interested in knowing whether they have antibodies from an earlier COVID-19 infection that may have gone undetected, adding the information is also important for those planning to travel.

"The average person can't just go somewhere and get antibody testing, it's not being offered, and so we're doing that," he said.

"Science is out on how long the antibodies last ... but if you have the antibodies, technically, it's protection, just like a vaccine, you should be immune to getting it again for a certain amount of time."

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Tuesday that anyone paying for a private antibody test should do some research.

"We don’t yet know whether an antibody test will mean that that person has a level of immunity or not. We’re not sure how a positive antibody test would correlate with immunity to COVID. And we also don’t know how long antibodies last.

"And it’s really critical that if they do have a positive test that they understand that test does not mean they are immune and that test does not mean they are safe to put themselves in harm’s way or at risk of exposure."

Earlier this month, Canada's national immunity task force announced it has started testing thousands of blood samples from blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies to produce a more detailed picture of how many Canadians have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

However, most of the people whose blood is being tested will not be informed of the results because of how the blood was collected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press