Five labs in Costa Rica have received authorization to offer coronavirus antibody tests, the Health Ministry announced this week.
The approved labs are: Echandi, Hospital Clínica Bíblica, Hospital la Católica, Hospital Cima and Laboratorio Labin.
SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests can help identify if a person has been exposed to the coronavirus and developed antibodies, proteins that defend against specific infections.
Prices vary by lab. For reference, Echandi offers the antibody test for ¢23.000, or about $40. Patients should avoid eating or drinking for two hours before the sample is taken.
Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19, Health Minister Daniel Salas explained, because SARS-CoV-2 antibodies aren’t created until about a week after infection.
Similarly, antibody tests cannot be used to meet the requirements for tourists entering Costa Rica. Visitors are still required to present results of negative PCR test — a diagnostic test that detects the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a person’s respiratory system — from a sample taken at most 72 hours before the flight’s departure.
Among the authorized uses in Costa Rica for antibody tests are:
- Biomedical research studies.
- Immune response studies for COVID-19 vaccines.
- Evaluation of the immune response of people who have recovered from COVID-19, for the process of donating and receiving therapeutic convalescent plasma.
- Support for diagnosis in certain medical situations in which patients have specific complications.
- Users of private health services, as indicated by the treating physician.
If a person tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, it indicates “the person may have previously been in contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but it does not indicate that the person has an acute infection nor that they have developed lasting immunity.”
On the other hand, someone testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies indicates that they haven’t been in contact with the virus, that not enough time has transpired to create antibodies, or that the person is immunocompromised.
Many private labs in Costa Rica also offer PCR coronavirus tests, which can be used to diagnose COVID-19.