Manitoba seeks quotes for COVID-19 serological test kits

Manitoba is one step closer to serological testing to determine how many people in the province may have had COVID-19 without knowing it.

Request for quotations posted to government tendering site on May 28; closes June 6

This undated electron microscope image shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Manitoba issued a request for quotations on May 28 seeking vendors to offer price points on serological test kits. (NIAID-RML/AP/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba is one step closer to doing serological testing to determine how many people in the province may have had COVID-19 without knowing it.

The province posted a request for quotations last week asking vendors to break down how much it would cost to buy 100 test kits with 100 tests each, plus two kits of 80 controls, and get them shipped as needed to Cadham Provincial Laboratory.

The deliveries could start as early as June 15 and continue until March 31, 2021, the tendering document says.

A provincial spokesperson said in an email the materials are being ordered in preparation for a "serosurvey" — group testing to determine how many people have a certain element in their blood serum.

In the context of COVID-19, the studies typically look for antibodies that show if a person has had the disease without knowing it.

"Details are not final and are still under discussion, both at the provincial and national levels," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

The request for quotation was posted to the government's tendering site, MERX, on May 28. It closes on June 6.

The province declined multiple requests from CBC News to provide more detail on the request for quotations.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief provincial public health officer, said Monday serological tests can be used for seroprevalence studies, to determine the spread of the disease, as well as to learn more about the extent to which antibodies may provide immunity to COVID-19.

In the past, Roussin has said the first use of antibody testing in the province would likely be a seroprevalence study. On Monday he said it's still too early to give more details about how such a study might work here.

"It's still early on," Roussin said. "We're certainly ordering those tests so that we're getting prepared to be able to do that. But the details of that ... are still pending."

Province hopes for 'national approach'

Seroprevalence studies require testing a random, representative sample of a population, Roussin said, so results can be extrapolated for the whole jurisdiction.

On Monday, Roussin said the province is hoping to see a Canada-wide strategy on how to select that sample, so provinces can compare their data and get a better sense of how widespread COVID-19 has been across the country.

"We're going to want that national approach," he said. "I'm not sure about the specifics in those other provinces. But for the most part, we're going to look at the national approach to determine which cohorts we're going to test first."

There's still no date for when that testing might begin, Roussin said Monday.

"I can't comment on a specific date," he said. "Within the next few weeks, certainly … we should be getting things together to start proceeding, but it will depend on a number of factors."


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