As more patients recover from the novel coronavirus and resume normal activities, there has been considerable discussion about COVID-19 antibody testing.
However, what are antibody testing, and how do they differ from COVID-19 diagnostic tests? What do the results of these tests mean for the individuals who take them? And what do they imply for our behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic?
What is antibody testing, and how is it different from COVID-19 diagnostic testing?
COVID-19 diagnostic testing entails determining the presence of an active virus — in this case, the coronavirus formally known as SARS-CoV-2. In samples swabbed from the very back of the nasal cavity, laboratory technologists employ a diagnostic procedure to discover genetic material from the virus. This test is based on a widely used molecular technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
By contrast, antibody testing (also known as serology testing) uses blood samples to detect signs of the body’s immune reaction to the infection.
After exposure to a foreign infection, your white blood cells begin to recognize it and produce antibodies to neutralize it. Therefore, if an antibody test for SARS-CoV2 is positive, it indicates that 1) you were exposed to the virus in the past and 2) your immune system was vigorous enough to mount an antibody-forming immunological response.
How long does it typically take for individuals to produce these antibodies?
There is a shortage of data on antibodies against SARS-CoV2. According to some statistics, most healthy individuals begin producing antibodies 11 to 14 days after symptoms initially manifest.
However, there are more factors to consider, such as malnutrition, cancer or another chronic health condition, or the use of immune-suppressing medications. All of these factors can impair an individual’s ability to produce antibodies.
What does a positive coronavirus antibody test result signify in terms of immunity for an individual?
The short answer is that we have no idea.
This could indicate someone has complete immunity, moderate immunity, or no immunity. Specific antibodies diminish over time, so you may be immune for six months to a year and not be immune at all. Or a tetanus vaccination, where you’re likely immune for the rest of your life. There is no way to provide conclusive answers.
How long until we know what positive COVID-19 antibody test results mean?
The solution to that question requires extensive research and a year of data collection. You must identify individuals who have the COVID-19 antibody. Then you must monitor them to determine if they re-infectif they are exposinfectione a virus.
Why is it critical for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies not to think they are immune?
There is a significant difference between informing someone that they are immune and may be resistant. That is a critical distinction to make
Because if someone tells me they’re going to give me a million dollars, I might go out and get a new house. However, if they tell me they may pay me a million dollars, I am unlikely to accept, as it is not a guarantee. It is merely a possibility.
We do not have the answer to this infection. We can only warn individuals who have a positive antibody test that they may have immunity. Even if I tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, I would not alter my behavior. I’d continue to wear personal protective equipment at work, frequently wash my hands, and maintain a social distance.
How accurate are the tests available at the moment?
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of serological diagnostics for this coronavirus. They are not commonly used enough to provide adequate responses at the moment.
Numerous organizations are currently attempting to promote their exams. And others are making so many fraudulent claims that the Food and Drug Administration may be forced to intervene. It’s critical to remember that just because someone claims to have a serology test does not guarantee they can be trusted to offer correct findings.
We’re considering bringing in serology testing from some of the larger, more established diagnostic equipment providers at TIB Pharmacy. We hope to have those available within the next few weeks.
Where may individuals obtain anti-bodies tested? And who should be held accountable?
At TIB Pharmacy, an antibody laboratory test requires a physician’s order. Antibody testing determines whether you were previously exposed to SARS-CoV2 and developed an antibody-forming immunological response.
Until we understand the relationship between antibody test findings and immunity, the tests are primarily valuable to epidemiologists and researchers. However, as usual, you should see your physician regarding your medical needs and any concerns.