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Canada authorizes use of first blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies

Reality check: Why antibody tests aren’t yet widely used
Reality check: Why antibody tests aren't yet widely used

Health Canada says it has authorized the first use COVID-19 blood tests in Canada.

A statement released Tuesday from Health Canada said that blood tests, known as serological tests, will be used in Canadian laboratories to “detect antibodies specific to COVID-19,” according to a press statement from Health Canada.

READ MORE: Why isn’t Canada using blood tests for COVID-19?

Health Canada said that at least one million Canadian blood samples would be collected and tested over the next two years to track the virus in both the general population and in groups that are at higher risk of being infected, such as health-care workers and the elderly.

“Serological testing will contribute to a better understanding of whether people who have been infected by COVID-19 are immune to the virus,” read the statement.

Coronavirus outbreak: New antibody test could be key in COVID-19 fight
Coronavirus outbreak: New antibody test could be key in COVID-19 fight

“Further research will also help us fully understand the relationship between positive antibody tests and protection against re-infection.”

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LISTEN BELOW: Dr. Ilan Schwartz with the University of Alberta joins 630 CHED Afternoons.

Health experts in Canada have called for the use of blood tests in identifying a person’s exposure to pathogens like the novel coronavirus.

In a previous interview with Global News, Dawn Bowdish, the Canada Research Chair in aging and immunity at McMaster University, said that while blood tests wouldn’t be able to detect early infections, they could pinpoint asymptomatic cases or patients with infections mild enough to have never been tested.

READ MORE: Airline conducts rapid blood tests for COVID-19. Should this be the new normal?

According to Bowdish, the use serological testing would be “the gold standard of understanding the spread of this infection,” and would help fill in the gaps surrounding Canada’s understanding of its epidemic.

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As the coronavirus pandemic begins to slow down in Canada and in other countries around the world, the use of such a test could potentially become a practice to not only understand the virus, but to also limit its spread in day-to-day life.

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In late April, Emirates became the first airline to conduct rapid on-site blood tests for passengers prior to boarding.

According to Emirates, the tests — which offer a glimpse into what could potentially be the new norm worldwide — were conducted at Dubai International Airport with results available within 10 minutes.

Private companies worldwide have already created rapid blood tests that could provide results in minutes, with tests already approved for use in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Health Canada said that it would be using the LIAISON test, which is developed by Italian biotech company DiaSorin and was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

— With files from Andrew Russell, Hannah Jackson and The Canadian Press