Serology-based tests for COVID-19

COVID-19 tests

Serology testing for SARS-CoV-2 is at increased demand in order to better quantify the number of cases of COVID-19, including those that may be asymptomatic or have recovered. Serology tests are blood-based tests that can be used to identify whether people have been exposed to a particular pathogen by looking at their immune response. In contrast, the RT-PCR tests currently being used globally to diagnose cases of COVID-19 can only indicate the presence of viral material during infection and will not indicate if a person was infected and subsequently recovered. These tests can give greater detail into the prevalence of a disease in a population by identifying individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus.

This page serves to provide up to date information on serology tests that are in development or available for use. Importantly, many of these tests have been approved for research use only, which indicates that they are not yet approved for use as a public health diagnostic tool or for at-home diagnosis. Some of these tests may move forward to approval for diagnostic use, while others may be appropriate for research only.

Serology testing for SARS-CoV-2 is at increased demand in order to better quantify the number of cases of COVID-19, including those that may be asymptomatic or have recovered. Serology tests are blood-based tests that can be used to identify whether people have been exposed to a particular pathogen by looking at their immune response. In contrast, the RT-PCR tests currently being used globally to diagnose cases of COVID-19 can only indicate the presence of viral material during infection and will not indicate if a person was infected and subsequently recovered. These tests can give greater detail into the prevalence of a disease in a population by identifying individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus.

This page serves to provide up to date information on serology tests that are in development or available for use. Importantly, many of these tests have been approved for research use only, which indicates that they are not yet approved for use as a public health diagnostic tool or for at-home diagnosis. Some of these tests may move forward to approval for diagnostic use, while others may be appropriate for research only.

Type of test Time to results What it tells us What it cannot tell us
Rapid diagnostic test (RDT) 10-30 minutes The presence or absence (qualitative) of antibodies against the virus present in patient serum. The quantifiable amount of antibodies in the patient serum, or if these antibodies are able to protect against future infection
Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) 1-5 hours The presence or absence (quantitative) of antibodies against the virus present in patient serum.
Neutralization assay 3-5 days The presence of active antibodies in patient serum that are able to inhibit virus growth ex vivo, in a cell culture system. Indicates if the patient is protected against future infection. It may miss antibodies to viral proteins that are not involved in replication.