Recently, there has been a lot of information and questions circulating about COVID-19 antibody tests. The information can be overwhelming and may leave you asking, “what exactly IS an antibody test?”
Antibody tests check the blood for antibodies that indicate if a person has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins that help to fight off infection. Antibody testing is not used to diagnose COVID-19.
It is generally believed that the presence of antibodies for a specific virus confers some degree of immunity against getting the infection again; however, for COVID-19 we do not yet know how long immunity may last. Therefore, determining if someone once had COVID-19 doesn’t tell us with certainty if or for how long someone is protected. In short, more data is needed to understand the body’s immunity response after a COVID-19 infection.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is using antibody testing selectively to understand how widespread COVID-19 infection is in different communities to guide broad decisions about public health. The test is not used to develop treatment or management plans for an individual patient.
Reliant’s Position on Antibody Testing
Because of the uncertainty around COVID-19 immunity testing, Reliant Medical Group providers are not currently ordering antibody testing. This is because the results – either positive or negative – would not change our medical advice:
- If a person is positive for the antibodies (meaning it appears he/she has likely had the infection), we cannot ensure that person has substantial immunity from catching COVID-19 again. In this case, we would still advise taking protective measures, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, to avoid contracting the infection again.
- If a person is negative for the antibodies (meaning that he/she does not appear to have had the COVID-19 infection), our advice would be the same: practice recommended safety guidelines to avoid contracting the infection.
Of course, the COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing. We will continue to monitor guidelines for antibody testing, and respond appropriately.