Phase I of our New Normal and Antibody Testing Updates

Published by David B. Roth, MD, PhD, on May 07, 2020

May 7 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

I am pleased to share with you the new video from our CEO Kevin Mahoney and Dean Larry Jameson as we are beginning Phase I of our new normal. We are forging a new path forward to help us resume our essential services for patients in a staged and thoughtful approach. An important aspect of this resurgence is visitation. We know that patients want to be able to have their loved ones visit them. For now, though, we are continuing to restrict visitation in order to maintain social distancing and limit the risk of exposure to patients, visitors, and staff. Updated guidance on visitation is available on the Remote Access Portal.

The work we do here is of global significance and the world is paying attention to us. Our colleague Dr. Rifat Mannan, who was named among the world's top 100 in the 2019 Power List by Pathologist Magazine (UK), was interviewed by the South Asian news portal Eastern Link about pathologists on the frontline of the pandemic. You can read the interview with him here.

I also want to remind you that the HUP Clinical Laboratory does offer antibody testing. However, serologic testing is currently not recommended and should not be used to inform diagnostic, staffing, or PPE decisions. Usage is reserved for specific circumstances as described in the Penn Medicine guidelines. The current assay is the SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay from Abbott Diagnostics, a chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay for the qualitative detection of IgG antibodies in human serum. At the current time, there are no guidelines from the FDA, CDC, or PA Department of Health about the use of antibody testing for individual patient management during the COVID-19 epidemic. Therefore, I ask you to please adhere to the Penn Medicine guidance on antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 available on the Remote Access Portal through the COVID-19 Update section on top.

In light of the ongoing discussions around antibody testing, I want to share with you a useful article from Scientific American on what COVID-19 antibody tests can and cannot tell us, and, more important, on how they may give individuals a false sense of security.

One of the nicest things to come out of our new situation is that I get a chance to interact with many of our colleagues from the Department in new ways. I want to add a special note of gratitude to two of our Department members who have provided me with outstanding and constructive feedback about my updates or "missives." Thank you to Terri Kenney, Coder, and Jennifer R. Smith, Technical Manager of Molecular Pathology, for your hard work, courage, dedication, and commitment! I also want to thank Daniel Wild who has been collecting information and working closely with me to produce these updates. Thank you, Daniel!

Many of you have been pushed outside of your comfort zones. Others have been making heroic efforts on behalf of others. Be sure to spend some time taking care of yourselves. If you don't take care of yourself, sooner or later you may not be able to take care of someone else.

David Roth

David B. Roth, MD, PhD, is the Simon Flexner Professor and Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these blog columns are those of the authors or other attributed individuals and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Department, Penn Medicine, or the University of Pennsylvania. Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of medical advice or diagnosis.