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Antibody Testing for COVID-19
It is possible to catch SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, and not know it. That is because not everyone infected with the virus has symptoms. But there is a lateral flow blood test that may tell you if you have ever been infected. It is called an antibody test. Experts hope it can give clinicians a better idea of how widespread this new coronavirus is.
Public Health England have not yet validated any of the antibody tests available in the UK, but this could change in the near future.
What Is an Antibody Test?
You may hear it called a serology test. It looks for certain things called antibodies in your blood. Your body makes these when it fights an infection, like COVID-19. The same thing happens when you get a vaccine, like a flu jab. That is how you develop immunity to a virus.
The antibody test, unlike the Government PCR or swab test, is not checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system – your body’s defence against illness – has responded to the infection.
How Does It Work?
You will have to give a drop of blood, through a small finger prick. Clinicians test for two kinds of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
They look for:
• IgM antibodies, which develop early in an infection, and
• IgG antibodies, which are more likely to show up later after you have recovered
It takes your body about 2-4 weeks to develop IgM antibodies. But scientists are not sure how long it will take for this to happen with SARS-CoV-2. Recent research shows this will happen around day 13 but more tests are needed to clarify this.
Keep in mind that current antibody tests cannot tell you if you are immune to COVID-19. That is because it is not yet known how long these antibodies might protect you against the coronavirus. And these tests should not be used to diagnose the virus.
How Do They Help?
Antibody tests can show how common COVID-19 is. Once scientists know who has had the virus, they can find out how sick it makes most people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) state that most people will only be mildly affected by Covid 19 and most people will make a full recovery. And they can study what happens if people who have had it are exposed to it again. When paired with other scientific information, this can help researchers understand who might be immune to the virus.
The hope is that people with antibodies to COVID-19 can safely get back to work, and normal life, quicker.
Who Should Get One?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 by using the PCR test and have fully recovered, or wish to have your blood checked Black and Banton are offering an tried and tested antibodies test in combination with robust questionnaire. Results are available in 15 minutes, discussed and appropriate advice provided to underpin the government’s strategy to reduce the spread of this virus.
Some UK labs are working with PHE and the Government to offer more PCR tests, validate existing antibody tests and offer additional enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) blood tests. It is hoped that a combination of all these tests will be made available soon.
How Can You Get an Antibody Test?
You cannot do these tests at home As they must be undertaken by a health professional. And they are not widely available yet. But you can contact Black and Banton on 01914871040 if you want your antibodies checked.
Are They Accurate?
The 2019 antibody test was compared with a leading commercial PCR; the results show that 2019 -nCoV has a high sensitivity and specificity (IgG accuracy of 98.6%).
If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, that usually means you have had COVID-19. But you may get a negative result if you have only had the virus a short time. And it’ is possible to get exposed and not develop antibodies. You may also get a “false positive.” That means you have antibodies but had a different kind of coronavirus.
Some companies have made false claims about how well their antibody tests work. Therefore they should not use any tests which have not been legally passed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).