Thursday, October 21, 2021

Russians flock to antibody tests; West Notes Tool Limit

MOSCOW — When Russians talk about the coronavirus at dinner or at the hair salon, the conversation often turns to “antitella,” the Russian word for antibodies — proteins produced by the body to fight infection.

Even President Vladimir Putin mentioned him in a conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week, bragging about why he avoided infection, even as dozens of people around him contracted the coronavirus. In which he spent the whole day with the Kremlin leader.

“I have high titers,” Putin said, referring to the measurement used to describe the concentration of antibodies in the blood. When Erdogan challenged him that the number given by Putin was low, the Russian insisted, “No, this is a high level. There are different counting methods.”

But Western health experts say the antibody tests so popular in Russia are either unreliable for diagnosing COVID-19 or for assessing immunity to it. The antibodies these tests look for can only serve as evidence of past infection, and scientists say it’s still unclear what levels of antibodies indicate protection against the virus and how many. by time.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says such tests should not be used to establish active COVID-19 infection because it can take one to three weeks for the body to make antibodies. Health experts say tests that look for the virus’s genetic material, called PCR tests, or that look for virus proteins, called antigen tests, should be used to determine whether anyone is infected.

In Russia, it is common practice to get an antibody test done and share the results. The tests are cheap, widely available and actively marketed by private clinics across the country, and their use appears to be a factor in the country’s low vaccination rate, even as daily deaths and infections continue to rise. .

In Moscow and the surrounding region, millions of antibody tests have been conducted at state-run clinics that offer them for free. Across the country, dozens of chains of private laboratories and clinics offer a variety of antibody tests for COVID-19 as well as tests for other medical conditions.

“In some of the cities I went to, I needed to do a PCR test and that was not possible, but I could have taken an antibody test – it was very easy,” said Dr Anton Barchuk, head of the epidemiology group at the European Institute of Medical Sciences. University in St. Petersburg and an associate professor at the Petrov National Cancer Center there.

Antibody tests for COVID-19 were first widely publicized in Moscow in May 2020, shortly after Russia lifted its only nationwide lockdown, although many restrictions remained in place. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced an ambitious program to test thousands of residents for antibodies.

Many Muscovites enthusiastically welcomed it. Contrary to Western experts, some believed the antibodies represented immunity to the virus and saw a positive test as a way out of restrictions.

Nation World News Desk
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