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Antibody Testing Update

July 21, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

About Author

Riley has a background in international affairs and enjoys writing about health and public policy subjects. He hopes his work will provide readers with the tools to live happily.

Antibody Testing Update

At this point in the pandemic, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about different kinds of testing for the coronavirus.

With all the talk of testing in the news, it can be easy to lose track of what’s what. In this article, we will be giving you an update on antibody testing and how it has evolved over the past few months. We’ll begin with a basic overview of what antibody testing is, and then we will move on to address some of the more complicated aspects of antibodies and their role in reopening the country. 


If you would like to sign up for a free antibody testing consultation, click here to learn more. Unlike some diagnostic testing sites, all antibody tests still require a doctor’s note, so get yours free today.


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What is Coronavirus Antibody testing?

So what is a coronavirus antibody test?

Antibody testing, also known as serology testing, is done after full recovery from a COVID-19 infection. During an antibody test, a healthcare professional will draw your blood in order to test the sample for antibodies produced by your immune system.

These antibodies are proteins produced in response to specific viruses and infections your body encounters. If the testing shows you have antibodies for the coronavirus, it indicates that you were likely infected with COVID-19 in the past. 

The biggest questions that remain about antibody testing pertain to the qualities of these COVID-19 specific antibodies. Doctor’s are still uncertain if and for how long the presence of these antibodies guarantees immunity. We’ll dive into this topic later in the article.

What’s the Difference Between Diagnostic and Antibody Testing?

Diagnostic testing checks samples from your respiratory system to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19. This is done by taking an oral or nasal swab of respiratory droplets and mucus and analyzing it for the presence of COVID-19 viruses. Unlike diagnostic testing, antibody testing does not tell you if you are currently infected.


Related: COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Information Center


Antibody testing cannot replace diagnostic testing. Antibodies can take 1 to 3 weeks for the body to produce in response to an infection and remain present after the virus has been beaten. 

Meaning, if you are actively suffering a COVID-19 infection, you will likely test negative for antibodies because your body has not had time to produce them.

Should I get Coronavirus Antibody Testing?

Antibody testing is a more complex process than diagnostic testing. While several states have effectively rolled out drive-through diagnostic testing sites, no such mass antibody testing system is in place yet.

Because antibody tests require a blood sample and are not an indicator of a current infection, government officials are more focused on tracking the number of cases through diagnostic tests. 

That being said, we recommend speaking to a doctor if you believe you or someone who you spent time with in close quarters may have been infected with COVID-19. You will need a doctor’s official recommendation to receive an antibody test, so talk to a doctor today if you suspect you may have been previously infected.


Related: Coronavirus Online Screening


Are Antibody Tests Accurate?

Our understanding of coronavirus antibodies is continuing to expand everyday. You may have heard about a variety of antibody tests which were found to be inaccurate and produce false positives.

In early trials, four brands of tests produced false positives 11% to 16% of the time. For obvious reasons, these tests caused great concern. A false positive could lead to someone believing they are immune, therefore lessening their caution and putting their own health and the health of those around them at risk. 

Fortunately, government agencies and healthcare companies have been working to combat the use of faulty antibody tests. If you are trying to get an antibody test, make sure to ask your doctor what brand of test they recommend or are partnered with. 

At PlushCare we are partnered with Quest labs and LabCorp and both offer highly accurate tests developed by Abbott Laboratories. The Abbott Laboratories test has a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 99.6% according to an internal Abbott study. The EUROIMMUN test has 99% specificity.

All that being said, there are still a number of variables being studied which have been found to have an influence over the accuracy of your antibody test result.

The most important of these is timing. Research has found that the sensitivity of the test is best when taken more than two weeks after symptoms are first reported.

So before you get antibody testing, make sure you wait an appropriate amount of time – at least 2 weeks from when you first felt symptoms – before getting testing.

What do the Studies Show About COVID-19 Antibodies and Immunity

The big question that everyone is asking remains, does a positive antibody test mean I’m immune to coronavirus?

Unfortunately, we aren’t sure yet. When it comes to interpreting antibody tests results, the World Health Organization warns leaders of creating policy that is overconfident in such testing. The talk of immunity passports–the idea that once you are immune, you may receive special privileges to return to a more normal life–is at this point still assuming too much of the accuracy of testing and the strength of the antibody proteins.

However, research is being done everyday to advance the quality of antibody tests and our understanding of what they can do for us.

Researchers from the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report studying patients who tested positive for the coronavirus twice. They found that those who re-tested positive carried antibodies that protected them from falling ill again, and prevented them from passing the disease to those who they came in contact with.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

Where can I get Antibody Testing?

To receive antibody testing, you have to make an appointment with a doctor to get a testing order, and then head to a blood lab that offers the test.

Fortunately, we make it easy to get a free antibody testing consultation with PlushCare. If you are a good candidate for antibody testing, our doctors can write you the note you need to get a blood sample drawn for an antibody test.

Click here to learn more about our free antibody testing appointments and get started today.


Read More About Coronavirus


Sources

mayoclinic.org. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests? Accessed on July 10, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/covid-antibody-tests/faq-20484429

cochrane.org. New Cochrane review assesses how accurate antibody tests are for detecting COVID-19. Accessed on July 10, 2020. https://www.cochrane.org/news/new-cochrane-review-assesses-how-accurate-antibody-tests-are-detecting-covid-19

nytimes.com. What You Need to Know About the Covid-19 Antibody Test. Accessed on July 10, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/article/antibody-test-coronavirus.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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