What can a COVID-19 antibody test tell me?

Pablo Tucker
May 20, 2020

It's also unclear if those antibodies make people immune to the virus.

In most cases, results will be shared with each tested individual within 48 hours.

According to Superdrug's website, the test is 97.5 percent sensitive and has 100 percent specificity, which means it will not give you a positive result if you do not have coronavirus antibodies. The AHN antibody tests cost $53 per employee. Issuing such passes, it said, "may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission".

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people's livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. Rather, the antibody test can be used to help determine if a person had the infection but was asymptomatic, or experienced symptoms but was not tested at the time of infection. "The question is, going forward, whether antibodies are protective and for how long". "So we still need a lot more research to understand how to deal with it".


Pathologist Alan Wu of the University of California-San Francisco said everybody wants to be believe that if they have antibodies, they are immune.

Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. During infection, the virus incorporates part of its genetic sequence-unique to each virus-into cells.

But that does not work with all antibodies, said Dr. Hill.

As more people in Hawaii take the COVID-19 antibody test, their results are providing more information about how far the virus has spread statewide.


Hill cites the two-stage test for Lyme disease as one that reflects the most common scenario for cross-reactive antibodies. World Health Organization criteria says that patients can be considered viral-positive if (1) antibodies are not detected at first, but then become detectable over the course of the disease, or (2) if detected, the antibody levels increase more than four times from the initial amount. Right now, antibody-based testing is still not accurate enough to be used as a standalone test, and must be applied with clinical observation and PCR testing for best results.

That, and the lack of access to antibody tests are what worry Schneider. They studied antibody levels in 52 apparent COVID-19-negative patients (determined by PCR).

One clue might come in through the experiment Trinity Health of New England is now running on the value of convalescent plasma.

"This is the process that we would ideally be working with the Department of Health, but we're not because it's so tenuous, with the state", she said. While an antibody test cannot determine if a patient is now sick, it can detect if they have been infected by showing if someone has the antibodies produced after exposure to coronavirus.


That's because the study will examine the strength of the antibodies in those with mild, moderate or severe infections.

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