Continuous contact tracing and tests for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are vital to combat the outbreak while waiting for an effective vaccine and medical therapy. Currently, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody tests are the two dominant tests in detecting the SARS-COV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19. According to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institute of Health, it is essential to note that these are two very different types of tests with two very different meanings. Here are the things you need to know about the antibody test:
What Is an Antibody Test?
Antibody test, also known as a serology test, refers to screening for antibodies found in the blood. The immune system combats viral or bacterial infections, like COVID-19, by producing antibodies to fight the disease.
Antibodies are proteins that the immune system utilizes to neutralize an infection. Antibodies are disease-specific, and if present, verify a past infection. It also means that antibody tests are NOT used to diagnose COVID-19 since they take approximately 10 days to be detected by a blood test.
If antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 are present, it doesn’t mean that you’re immune to COVID-19. Research is still being conducted on whether recovered patients may be reinfected. Recovered patients should still practice safety protocols, such as social distancing and proper hygiene.
How Antibody Test Work
A blood sample will be collected by vein or pin prick, and either sent to the lab or utilized in a rapid point of care test. It will be tested for one or two kinds of antibodies for SARS-CoV-2:
- IgM antibodies that developed early in an infection
- IgG antibodies that show up later after you’ve recovered.
People commonly develop IgG antibodies about 7 to 10 days after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. According to the CDC, it could also take 1-3 weeks for the body to develop antibodies. The antibodies usually remain after the infection, however, it is unknown for how long.
Nasal Swab Test vs. COVID-19 Antibody Test
COVID-19 antibody test refers to a blood test that determines the presence of antibodies from combating SARS-CoV-2. It is a test to check for a previous infection. On the other hand, the nasal swab is a test that determines the presence of the virus in the nasopharynx, and checks for an active, current infection. According to the CDC, the nasal swab test detects SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid or antigen from respiratory specimens.
Why Do We Need Antibody Testing?
We need antibody testing to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population. It helps identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Asymptomatic cases refer to people who have SARS-CoV-2 but are not aware because of the absence of COVID-19 symptoms. It is useful for contact tracing and statistics, so health officials can better deal with the virus in their areas. It will also help researchers understand the illness better and understand who is susceptible and who is immune.
Who Should Get an Antibody Test?
You may get tested for antibodies if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and have successfully recovered. The results will potentially help in studies, and eligibility to donate convalescent plasma. You may also get tested if you think you’ve had COVID-19 in the past.
How Can You Get an Antibody Test?
Antibody tests for COVID-19 are available through healthcare providers and laboratories. Dr. Schiffman has a rapid, point of care antibody tests, which provide results in 10 minutes.
Dr. Amy Schiffman is an allergy and immunology specialist in Boca Raton, Florida. She is more than happy to help you during this troubling time. Call for an appointment to discuss the nasal swab test and COVID-19 antibody testing. You may also address all your allergy and immunology concerns.