Antibody Testing and COVID-19
With COVID-19 on the rise, there has been an increase in testing. Testing is available to those with and without symptoms in every state in the US. At the beginning of the pandemic, testing was limited, however, it is now more accessible to the general public.
There are two different types of lab tests that can detect COVID-19. These include the nasal swab and the antibody test. Both of these work differently and serve different functions. But it is important that both scientists, businessmen and all people understand how the antibody test works.
What Are Antibodies?
Antibodies circulate in the blood, recognizing foreign substances in order to attack and get rid of harmful bacteria and viruses. These are called antigens. Typically, antibodies will be created after your first exposure to an unsafe substance, aka the antigen. They are made by your white blood cells. Then, the next time you are exposed, they will try to fight off the dangerous particles so that you do not get sick a second time.
How Does an Antibody Test Work?
Doctors can order blood work for a patient to determine if there are any antibodies built up in the bloodstream. They will be present if you had the disease before. So in the case of a COVID-19 patient, this type of lab work would determine if the patient had the coronavirus in the past or not.
Another name for this type of lab work is serology testing. With COVID-19 it’s specifically looking for the antibody called immunoglobulin G. The body produces this in response to the virus. Generally it can take up to two weeks to develop after an active infection.
It is important to know that this test is not able to detect an active virus. So if you are currently having symptoms of COVID-19, it is unlikely that this test will tell you if you have it or not. This test may also not be covered under insurance policies. However, most companies will cover a nasal swab to try to detect an active virus.
What Does a Positive Test Mean?
A positive test means that you have previously been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Unfortunately, positive results could also mean that you have antibodies from a previous infection with a different virus. That is because there are other viruses within the same family of coronavirus. This test is unable to differentiate between the various strains of coronavirus infections.
Scientists are unaware if a positive result means immunity to the virus. There have been suspected cases of reinfection, however, it is rare. Although normally, antibodies offer some sort of protection, they may not be able to fight the virus off completely. Even if they do provide some sort of immunity to the virus, no one knows how long it would offer protection.
It is possible for you to test positive even if you have never had symptoms of COVID-19. Many people remain asymptomatic when infected. Therefore, this helps those who may not have found out otherwise that they had the virus.
What Does a Negative Test Mean?
A negative test means that you have never had any of the coronavirus infections. However, this does not mean that you will not get it in the future. It also cannot ensure that you are not currently infected. Since it can take up to three weeks for antibodies to develop, it is possible for you to be exposed and not know for a few weeks. In addition, some people may never develop antibodies even if they had a previous infection.
Whether you test positive or negative, it is important to limit the spread from person to person. So, be sure to follow CDC guidelines to limit your exposure to others so you won’t contract the virus.