Are Antibody Tests for the Coronavirus Reliable?

coronavirus antibody testing

Coronavirus antibody testing is a type of serological test. Serological tests indicate the presence or absence of antibodies in the blood, which in this case, are the antibodies developed against the coronavirus or the Sars Cov 2.

What are antibodies?

So, antibodies are types of proteins that are released from specialized cells called B lymphocytes in response to a foreign body attacking your system (like viruses, bacteria, etc.). B lymphocyte cells belong to a collective system called the immune system. So, in a way, antibodies indicate your immunity towards any foreign bodies or antigens.

What is Coronavirus antibody testing?

As mentioned earlier, it is a serological test, meaning, it will indicate the presence and absence of antibodies in your blood. The test is pretty simple, the nurse will prick your finger for blood, your blood will be collected and run down in a sample in which different antigens are present.

If any antibodies in your blood react with these particular antigens, it means that you have the specified antibodies. In this case, it means that you have developed the antibodies that fight against the coronavirus infection.

What does it mean if you come out to be positive?

Coronavirus antibody tests are usually done to find out a rough measure of the people previously infected with the virus, as they might’ve developed antibodies till now. This helps in conducting surveys, measuring the community spread, etc. They are in no way conclusive to the fact that you are Covid 19 positive or negative. Yes, they can tell whether you have encountered the infection or not.

According to the Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Antibody Testing in Clinical and Public Health Settings

“Antibody testing may be useful to support the diagnosis of COVID-19 illness or complications of COVID-19 in the following situations:

●  A positive antibody test at least 7 days following acute illness onset in persons with a previous negative antibody test (i.e., seroconversion) and who did not receive a positive viral test may indicate SARS-CoV-2 infection between the dates of the negative and positive antibody tests.

●  A positive antibody test can help support a diagnosis when patients present with complications of COVID-19 illness, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome and other post-acute sequelae of COVID-19.”

According to Dr. William F Marshal, MD,

“if test results show that you have antibodies, it indicates that you were likely infected with COVID-19 at some time in the past. It may also mean that you have some immunity. But there’s a lack of evidence on whether having antibodies means you’re protected against reinfection with COVID-19. The level of immunity and how long immunity lasts are not yet known. Ongoing studies will eventually reveal more data on this.

Another benefit of accurate antibody testing is that people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 may be eligible to donate plasma, a part of their blood. This plasma could be used to treat others with severe diseases and boost the ability to fight the virus. Doctors call this convalescent plasma.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, Coronavirus antibody testing is in no way conclusive to the fact that you have the virus inside you or not. However, through large samplings, researchers and doctors will come to know the reach of the infection i.e. how many people it has infected or is it a community spread, etc.

It can also help in contact tracing which can further help in limiting the virus. Different surveys and reports through serological tests help us in knowing about the situation and how to deal with it.

For individuals, Coronavirus antibody testing lets them know whether they have encountered the infection or not. If they have and they don’t know about it, they should ponder more on their safety, as developing antibodies does not mean that you are safe from the infection, it just means that your body has tried to fight.

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