Health Canada says it has authorized the first COVID-19 serological test for use in the country to detect antibodies specific to the virus.
DiaSorin, an Italian multinational biotechnology company, had developed the LIAISON test that was also recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In a statement Tuesday, Health Canada said it will be used in Canadian laboratories to detect COVID-19 antibodies and help contribute to a better understanding of whether people who have been infected are immune to the virus.
Health Canada says further research will also help understand the relationship between positive antibody tests and protection against reinfection.
The Canadian agency says at least one million Canadian blood samples will be collected and tested over the next two years to track the virus in the general population and in specific groups at greater risk of having been infected, including health-care workers and seniors.
Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto who isn’t involved in the rollout, called antibody tests a potential gamechanger.
“I think the first immediately useful information will be in the way of community surveillance,” Gupta said.
Many people would have had this infection without symptoms or with minor symptoms. In some cases, they went to an assessment centre or hospital, but because there weren’t enough diagnostic tests, they were told to go home and recover. Most people did, he said.
“What we’ll be able to do now is to go out and very broadly administer blood tests,” Gupta said, to find out what proportion of Canada’s population actually had the infection. That’s useful for planning purposes.
Health Canada says the testing will help inform public health decisions and will expedite the supply of safe and effective health products.