Private mobile lab offering blood testing services for COVID-19 antibodies

A Calgary-based private mobile lab company is offering blood testing to detect antibodies associated with COVID-19.

Serology testing added to promote its in-home sample collection business

This undated electron microscope image shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. (NIAID-RML/AP/The Canadian Press)

A Calgary-based private mobile lab company is offering blood testing to detect antibodies associated with COVID-19.

Ichor Blood Services says it charges $75 plus GST for each home collection visit, with the cost of the antibody test itself at $120 plus tax per person — a family of four would pay $555 plus tax.

CEO Mike Kuzmickas, a mechanical engineer who worked in oil and gas before creating Ichor in January, says the COVID-19 serology testing is being added to promote its core business of in-home blood and urine sample collection.

He says the company has a dozen collection staff working between Calgary and Edmonton, and one person in Toronto, and plans to expand into the Alberta cities of Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

The testing is done by partner StageZero Life Sciences at a laboratory in Virginia. The results, which are said to be 99 per cent accurate, are then provided to the patient or employer through a secure online portal.

Kuzmickas says people are interested in knowing whether they have antibodies from an earlier COVID-19 infection that may have gone undetected, adding the information is also important for those planning to travel.

In her press conference Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, warned Albertans to be cautious of private-pay antibody tests.

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"It's important if Albertans are considering purchasing a private-pay test, whether it's an antibody test or another test, to do research on the credentials of the lab that's offering it, and what the accuracy of that particular test is," Hinshaw said.

"It's really important to remember that we don't yet know whether an antibody test will mean that that person has a level of immunity or not. We also don't know how long antibodies last.

Hinshaw advised that people continue to take precautions even if they do get a positive antibody test.

"That test does not mean that they are immune, and that test does not mean that they are safe to put themselves in harm's way or at risk of exposure to COVID," she said.

With files from CBC Edmonton