Airline conducts rapid blood tests for COVID-19. Should this be the new normal? — National |

Alanine aminotransferase (alt) test

Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme mostly produced by liver cells. High levels can be an indication of liver damage.

Alkaline phosphatase test

Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme typically produced in liver and bone cells. Results outside of the normal levels can signal liver damage and bone problems such as rickets or bone tumors.

Blood test abbreviations

Blood test results generally use the metric system of measurement and various abbreviations, including:

  • cmm: cells per cubic millimeter
  • fL (femtoliter): fraction of one-millionth of a liter
  • g/dL: grams per deciliter
  • IU/L: international units per liter
  • mEq/L: milliequivalent per liter
  • mg/dL: milligrams per deciliter
  • mL: milliliter
  • mmol/L: millimoles per liter
  • ng/mL: nanograms per milliliter
  • pg (picograms): one-trillionth of a gram

People worried about their health can also use the free Ada app to carry out a symptom assessment.

Blood test efficacy

But some have expressed concerns about the efficacy of blood tests.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said doctors should “be aware” that most serology tests haven’t been reviewed by the FDA.

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“Quality is highly variable, with some or perhaps many giving uncertain results,” he wrote. “False positive rates may be inappropriately high. Patients and doctors shouldn’t rely on unproven tests for clinical decisions.”

He said depending on the test, false positive rates can range from 25 to 50 per cent.

“Meaning tests that return positive results saying you have antibodies to COVID-19 may be wrong as much as half the time,” he wrote. “Many tests have 95 per cent specificity which leaves false positives high.”

But, in an email to Global News, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said without knowing which test was done by the DHA, it is unclear what the validity of the approach is.

Global News reached out to Dubai Health Authority to clarify what type of blood test was used, but did not hear back by time of publication.

Across Canada, health officials have been using use nose and throat swabs to test for the virus.

“The nasopharyngeal swabs used to detect COVID19 that we are using in Canada are a very good test,” Bogoch told Global News.

Blood cholesterol test

Cholesterol is a fatty substance mostly created by the liver from the fatty foods in your diet and is vital for the normal functioning of the body.

Having a high level of cholesterol can contribute to an increased risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Blood cholesterol levels can be measured with a simple blood test. You may be asked not to eat for 12 hours before the test (which usually includes when you’re asleep) to ensure that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the result, although this isn’t always necessary.

Find out more about diagnosing high cholesterol and read about cholesterol tests on Lab Tests Online UK.

Blood culture

This involves taking a small sample of blood from a vein in your arm and from 1 or more other parts of your body.

The samples are combined with nutrients designed to encourage the growth of bacteria. This can help show whether any bacteria are present in your blood.

At least 2 samples are usually needed.

Read more about blood cultures on Lab Tests Online UK.

Blood gases test

A blood gases sample is taken from an artery, usually at the wrist. It’s likely to be painful and is only carried out in hospital.

A blood gas test is used to check the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, and the balance of acid and alkali in your blood (the pH balance).

A pH imbalance can be caused by:

Read more about blood gas tests on Lab Tests Online UK.

Blood glucose (blood sugar) tests

A number of tests can be used to diagnose and monitor diabetes by checking the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

These include the:

  • fasting glucose test – where the level of glucose in your blood is checked after fasting (not eating or drinking anything other than water) for at least 8 hours
  • glucose tolerance test – where the level of glucose in your blood is checked after fasting, and again 2 hours later after being given a glucose drink
  • HbA1C test – a test done at your GP surgery or hospital to check your average blood sugar level over the past 3 months

Blood glucose test kits may be available to use at home. These only require a small «pin prick» of blood for testing.

Read more about glucose tests on Lab Tests Online UK.

Blood typing

This is done before donating blood or having a blood transfusion, to check what your blood group is.

If you were given blood that didn’t match your blood group, your immune system may attack the red blood cells, which could lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

Blood typing is also used during pregnancy, as there’s a small risk the unborn child may have a different blood group from their mother, which could lead to the mother’s immune system attacking her baby’s red blood cells. This is known as rhesus disease.

If you don’t already know your blood type, your blood will be tested at least once during your pregnancy to determine if there’s a risk of rhesus disease. Read more about diagnosing rhesus disease.

If testing reveals there is a risk of rhesus disease, an injection of a medicine that stops the mother’s immune system attacking her baby’s blood cells can be given. Read more about preventing rhesus disease.

Read more about blood typing on Lab Tests Online UK.

Cancer blood tests

A number of blood tests can be carried out to help diagnose certain cancers or check if you’re at an increased risk of developing a particular type of cancer.

These include tests for:

Chloride test

This test measures the body’s chloride levels. An increased level of chloride can indicate dehydration as well as kidney disorders and adrenal gland dysfunction.

Chromosome testing (karyotyping)

This is a test to examine bundles of genetic material called chromosomes.

By counting the chromosomes (each cell should have 23 pairs) and checking their shape, it may be possible to detect genetic abnormalities.

Chromosome testing can be used:

Coagulation tests

A coagulation test may be used to see if your blood clots in the normal way.

If it takes a long time for your blood to clot, it may be a sign of a bleeding disorder such as haemophilia or von Willebrand disease.

A type of coagulation test called the international normalised ratio (INR) is used to monitor the dose of anticoagulants, such as warfarin, and check that your dose is correct. Read more about monitoring your anticoagulant dose.

Read more about coagulation factors and international normalised ratio on Lab Tests Online UK.

Complete blood count (cbc)

The complete blood count (CBC) concentrates on the three types of blood cells: white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs) and platelets. By measuring the volume of blood cells, the CBC allows a doctor to evaluate an individual’s overall health, as well as check for underlying conditions such as leukemia and anemia.

The subtests within the CBC are:

Creatinine test

Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is important for creating muscle energy. Increased levels of creatinine can be a sign of kidney dysfunction.

Differential white blood cell count

The lab tests the five main components of white blood cells and their proportion to each other. If the components are out of balance, this could indicate an infection, as well as a variety of medical conditions. Healthy proportions for each are:

  • Neutrophils: 40 to 60 percent of the total
  • Lymphocytes: 20 to 40 percent
  • Monocytes: 2 to 8 percent
  • Eosinophiles: 1 to 4 percent
  • Basophils: 0.5 to 1 percent

Electrolyte test

Electrolytes are minerals found in the body, including sodium, potassium and chloride, that perform jobs such as maintaining a healthy water balance in your body.

Changes in the level of electrolytes can have various possible causes, including dehydration, diabetes or certain medications.

Read more about electrolytes on Lab Tests Online UK.

Fasting blood sugar test

Blood sugar levels are easily affected by recent food or drink intake. The fasting blood sugar test is therefore done after a minimum of six hours of fasting. Abnormal results can indicate diabetes, among other medical conditions.

Genetic testing and screening

This involves extracting a sample of DNA from your blood, then searching the sample for a specific genetic change (mutation).

Genetic conditions that can be diagnosed this way include:

Genetic screening can also be used to check if someone carries a particular gene that increases their risk of developing a genetic condition.

For example, if your brother or sister developed a genetic condition in later life, such as Huntington’s disease, you may want to find out whether there is a risk that you could also develop the condition.

Read more about genetic testing.

Hdl cholesterol test

HDL cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (or good cholesterol), is useful in protecting against heart disease. Low levels can increase the risk of heart problems.

Hematocrit (hct) test

Tests what proportion of the blood is made up of RBCs. It is useful in diagnosing anemia, among other medical conditions.

Hemoglobin (hgb) test

Hemoglobin is a protein contained within red RBCs that sends oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. The hemoglobin test is also useful in diagnosing anemia, with many practitioners preferring this test over the hematocrit test.

Read more about Hemoglobin and Hemoglobin Levels »

Ldl cholesterol test

LDL cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (or bad cholesterol), is linked to heart disease and clogged arteries.

Lipid panel

The lipid panel consists of various tests used to measure the different types of triglycerides (fats) and cholesterol in the blood.

Liver function test

When the liver is damaged, it releases substances called enzymes into the blood and levels of proteins produced by the liver begin to drop.

By measuring the levels of these enzymes and proteins, it’s possible to build up a picture of how well the liver is functioning.

This can help to diagnose certain liver conditions, including hepatitis, cirrhosis (liver scarring), and alcohol-related liver disease.

Read more about liver function tests on Lab Tests Online UK.

Mean corpuscular volume (mcv) test

The average volume of RBCs, or the space each red blood cell fills, is measured through this test. Results outside of the normal range can be a sign of anemia or chronic fatigue syndrome, among other medical conditions.

Privacy, liability concerns

Bryan Del Monte, president of The Aviation Agency, said the type of testing conducted in Dubai poses a number of security and liability concerns.

First and foremost, Del Monte said airlines are “not the right actors to be doing this.”

“It’s not clear that these tests are a good idea, but in any event even if they are, then we shouldn’t be doing it ad-hoc with private enterprises doing this activity,” he said.

“It should be standardized, [and] you’re probably going to have to do it at a checkpoint with all kinds of regulations about the data and how it’s protected and how long it’s kept and all of that good stuff.”

Del Monte added there would need to be clear, internationally agreed-upon rules to govern who can access the data gathered and where it can be sent.

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He also voiced concerns that the tests may give passengers a false sense of security.

He said “given the state of the technology,” it is not clear how effective these blood tests are, meaning they could result in false positives, or miss those who are carrying the virus.

Del Monte said it’s difficult to say whether such tests will become more common given the unprecedented nature of COVID-19, but that he “certainly hopes not.”

He noted there are public health precedents and laws in place that need to help govern the next steps forward, and that they should be respected.

“Before countries and or companies just run out and do their own thing, there needs to be a thoughtful, consolidated, coordinated approach,” he said. “Because otherwise, you’re going to create all these displacements in the system, create all these problems, create competition between airlines in order to have testing.”

But, not everyone agrees.

In an email to Global News, Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights said as long as the tests are run hygienically, he thinks it is a “great initiative.”

“Germany implemented roadside tests, and it’s perhaps the reason for their success in flattening the curve,” he wrote.

Lukacs said he would “welcome such tests in Canada as long as we don’t have a vaccine.”

“In the current situation, this testing is no more infringing than a security screening: it serves the purpose of protecting the health and safety of fellow passengers,” he wrote. “It is legitimate.”

Rapid blood test identifies infection type


Prilutsky, D. Analytical Chemistry, Aug. 10, 2021.

Robert Marks, PhD, biotechnology engineering, National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.

Daria Prilutsky, PhD, National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.

Christine C. Ginocchio, PhD, chief of infectious disease diagnostics, department of pathology and laboratory medicine, North Shore LIJ Health System Laboratories, Lake Success, N.Y.

News release, American Chemical Society.

Red cell distribution width (rdw or rcdw) test

Tests the distribution of RBCs, not their actual size. Levels outside of the normal range can indicate conditions such as anemia, malnutrition and liver disease.

Thyroid function test

This test is used to test your blood for levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and, where needed, thyroxine and triiodothyronine (thyroid hormones).

If you have low or high levels of these hormones, it could mean you have a thyroid condition such as an underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid.

Read more about thyroid function tests on Lab Tests Online UK.

Total cholesterol test

This test measures the overall levels of LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.

Total cholesterol to hdl ratio test

Calculating this ratio can help determine an individual’s risk of developing a heart disease. It is worked out by dividing HDL cholesterol into total cholesterol. High levels are a possible indicator of heart problems.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is showing symptoms of high cholesterol, get a free symptom assessment with the Ada app.

Triglycerides test

Tests for triglycerides, a fat found in the blood. Irregularities are a possible risk factor for heart disease and other medical conditions.

What have canadian airlines said?

In an email to Global News, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said this is not something the airline is considering at this time.

But, Bell said WestJet has implemented a number of other measures amid the outbreak including enforcing seat distancing, aircraft cleaning and sanitation and requiring all passengers to wear masks during flights.

She said WestJet is also enforcing physical distancing for crew members and the public.

“WestJet remains focused on the health and safety of WestJetters and guests,” Bell wrote in the email.

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Global News reached out to Air Canada for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.

Meanwhile, the federal government has also enforced a number of measures in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 among travellers.

Last month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced only four of Canada’s airports — Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Vancouver International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Calgary International Airport — would be receiving international flights.

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Anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 is not being permitted to board a flight to Canada, and all travellers returning to the country from abroad, regardless of if they are symptomatic, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The government has also increased screening at airports, has closed the country’s borders to foreign travellers and have urged Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel.

White blood cell (wbc) count

Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are a major component of the body’s immune system. A high white blood cell count can indicate the presence of infection, while a low count can point towards various conditions, including HIV/AIDS and lupus.

Read more about a White Blood Cell Count »

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