Alberta is investing $10 million into targeted serology testing that will help track the spread of COVID-19 across the province.
Serology testing is used to detect the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood, indicating that a person has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus in the past. This is different from the robust polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing already available to all Albertans, which is the most effective way to test if anyone currently has the virus.
Alberta Health is investing in four voluntary public health studies, which will serologically test specific groups of Albertans for the virus. Alberta Health Services (AHS) will also make serology testing available for specific clinical purposes where testing can inform treatment decisions.
Alberta is the first province in Canada to make this targeted serology testing available.
“We committed to investing in expanding COVID-19 testing as part of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy. Investing in these focused studies of select groups will help us get a better sense of the situation in Alberta and learn more about the virus. The more we know about how COVID-19 is spreading, the better we can protect Albertans.”Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
“We anticipate that there are people in the province who have been infected with COVID-19 and either were not tested, or were unaware that they had the virus. Investing in these representative public health studies will help us understand what percentage of Albertans have a history of infection, and how to improve our health response.”Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health
“Albertans’ collective efforts to follow public health guidelines have helped to significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province. In addition to our robust testing efforts to detect positive cases, antibody testing is one more tool that will provide the critical data we need to monitor and track the virus within our communities.”Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO, Alberta Health Services
The $10-million investment will fund two pediatric studies that will measure COVID-19 antibody prevalence among groups of Calgary and Edmonton children until 2022. A third study will test samples from blood collected for other purposes across the province, and a fourth will regularly test select Albertans over the age of 45 to help officials better estimate the number of people exposed to COVID-19.
By investing in serology studies, Alberta will be able to better estimate the number of people who have previously contracted COVID-19 and learn about how the virus is spreading over time.
As well, Alberta Precision Laboratories will offer serology testing for specific clinical purposes and funded population-level serology research studies.