New York, NY – May 22, 2020: Antibody Testing for COVID-19. Laboratory technicians take an antibody test for COVID-19 at the SOMOS Community Care site on a resident of the Washington Heights Latino community. (Photo: Lev Radin/Gildshire)
There’s been a lot of noise about antibody testing for COVID-19. Here we are going to share the latest information about the antibody tests from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is an antibody test?
The antibody test will check your blood for any existing antibodies. This can be a sign that you previously had an infection caused by the coronaviruses. What does this mean? Antibodies are basically proteins that can help you fight the infection. They usually provide protection from getting the disease by creating immunity from the disease. Antibodies are specific to the disease. If you have for example the measles antibody that will protect you if you are ever exposed to measles only. It will not protect you from other diseases such as COVID-19.
With the current COVD-19 infection and what we know about the virus, the test might not find antibodies depending on when infected and when tested. It’s important to stress that experts believe that the antibody test does not diagnose COVID-19. To see if someone is currently infected with COVID-19, they should do a viral test that identifies the virus from samples of the respiratory system.
Experts do not know as of yet if those who recovered from COVID-19 can get infected again. Therefore, if you show positive or negative for the antibody test, you should still take all measures to protect yourself from the virus.
If you still wish to get the antibody test, you can check with your healthcare provider to see if they offer the test and whether you should take the test.
What Positive Results on the Antibody Test Mean?
Positive test results on the antibody test mean that you have antibodies from an infection that causes COVID-19. You could also have antibodies from related viruses from the family of coronaviruses which includes the common cold. The antibody test is not COVID-19 specific but specific to all coronaviruses. Therefore, scientists are not stating that positive results on the antibody test guarantee you immunity for the COVID-19 virus. If you take the antibody test, talk to your healthcare provider to understand the results better. Your health care provider can advise if you should take a different type of test to establish the accuracy of the first test. It’s important to add that the antibody test does not indicate that you currently have the COVID-19 virus.
What Negative Results on the Antibody Test Mean?
Depending on what type of antibody test you took, you should consult your healthcare provider. They will help you better understand what negative results on the antibody test mean. It could mean that you never had COVID-19 before. However, negative results can show for someone who had the coronavirus one to three weeks before taking the test. That is a timeframe needed for one to develop the antibodies. Furthermore, for some, it might take longer to develop coronavirus antibodies. Some might never develop antibodies.
Regardless of positive or negative results from the antibody test, you should take measures to protect yourself or others.