These two giants in diagnostic testing are not the only ones involved with antibody testing.
It would be great to know if you have COVID-19 or think you do. This will allow you to determine if your immune system has produced anti-infection antibodies against SARS CoV-2, which is the virus that causes the illness. And maybe your body will be better equipped to fight this evil next time.
Individuals can now access these tests with the help of large clinical laboratories like Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp. The results may give you some comfort, in theory. Scientists warn that testing for antibodies may provide consumers with false hope. The value of the test, at least at this moment, is very limited.
They should, however. What are the advantages and disadvantages of testing for antibodies?
Quest and LabCorp believe that knowledge is power.
Quest’s direct-to-consumer service was created to make quality testing easy for consumers. Anyone can order the antibody tests without the need for a doctor’s visit. After reviewing each request, the company states that a licensed doctor will submit the order “if necessary.” After purchasing the test (it’ll set you back $119, according to the online portal), you can set up an appointment for a blood draw at one of Quest’s 2,200 patient service centers.
Quest spokeswoman said that the test is performed on two different diagnostic testing platforms, and consumers cannot choose which platform is used. She stated in an email that the test is sent to the forum and lab that has the fastest turnaround time. This is usually one to two business days.
In a news release, Jay Wohlgemuth, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Secaucus, New Jersey-based Quest, stated that such testing “may identify people who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 and might have mounted an immune response to the virus.” As he puts it, “Our goal is to empower individuals and their physicians to make informed decisions about their risk of infection and of spreading the virus.”
LabCorp, located in Burlington, North Carolina, said that it has also begun providing antibody testing for COVID-19. The test is ordered by a doctor or other health care provider. There’s no upfront, out-of-pocket cost. A LabCorp spokesperson stated that the details of reimbursement, pricing, and coverage for serological testing are still being finalized.
People can have their blood drawn at tens of thousands of doctors’ offices or LabCorp’s 2,000 sites, including LabCorp at Walgreens locations, the diagnostics company explained. It said that the ordering provider would receive the test results within one to three days. Patients can also access the results via the company’s mobile app.
What does antibody testing do and not reveal?
Antibody testing can determine if your immune system produced proteins to fight the virus. These tests could play a part in returning Americans to work safely. Public health officials can identify patterns of virus exposure in local communities by using validated blood tests.
However, it is impossible to know if a positive antibody test will mean you are safe from further infection at this point in the pandemic. “The problem is that we don’t know what antibody titer is required to be protected,” Tina Q. Tan (IDSA board member), professor of pediatrics at Northwest University Feinberg School of Medicine, stated during a recent media briefing. The blood concentration of antibodies is called “Titer.”
We don’t know how much protection someone may have or at what level. According to John B. Lynch III, IDSA board member and associate professor in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, University of Washington. Is it for weeks, months, years, or forever?
Imagine someone who tests positive for the virus in an acute situation and then tests positive for antibodies. If that person becomes ill with COVID-19 and then tests positive for SAR-CoV-2 five months later, it would mean that those antibodies are not protective. Katherine R. Spindler Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor tells Health.
She says that antibody testing could give people a false sense of safety. If they think they are immune, they might ignore protective measures like wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing.
Spindler adds that we don’t know if the antibodies produced by individual A that react to this test are more protective than those produced by personal B. And, she says, we don’t know whether having been infected with the novel coronavirus provides any immunity at all for any individual. This is the hope, but we don’t know the answer for quite some time.
Are people who have antibodies to SARS/CoV-2 able to develop long-term immunity against the novel coronavirus, just like they do for measles and smallpox? These diseases are not likely to return if you have had them or have been vaccinated. This is true for norovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
Some antibodies are protective, while others only serve to indicate disease. This is what David Grenache (President-elect) of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and chief scientific officer at TriCore Reference Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico tells Health. For example, HIV patients make antibodies, but they don’t cure the infection. The antibody test is a tool to identify the disease.
Grenache believes that the test has very limited utility for individuals because scientists cannot determine if developing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity. What do you do with this information? It won’t change your behavior because we can’t tell you if you are immune.” He says that at best, they might be satisfied by the results.
Grenache adds that it is possible to imagine someone having a nasal swab test for COVID-19. He says that antibody testing would not be useful because you already know you have the disease.
Do I not need to be tested for antibodies to donate blood plasma to coronavirus patients who are sick?
Grenache says that antibody testing can be used to identify COVID-19 survivors. This means they may donate their blood plasma to COVID-19 victims. However, blood banks and medical centers where blood donations are being collected for clinical trials of so-called convalescent therapy would likely perform their testing.
He says, “A direct-to consumer test for antibodies would never be used by any medical authority in order to enroll or deny someone in that type trial.” They would perform their test.
The FDA doesn’t require any antibody testing to consider a donor. Under agency guidelines, a positive nasal swab test at the time of illness and complete resolution of symptoms at least 28 days before donation may be enough.
What if I want to find out if I have the novel coronavirus
Antibody testing will determine if you have had an infection in the past. This is true regardless of whether you had symptoms at that time or not. But antibody tests have not been validated for diagnostic purposes, explains the FDA, adding that “we do not expect that an antibody test can be shown to definitively diagnose or exclude COVID-19.”
A PCR test is a test that measures the presence of bacteria in your body. It involves swabbing your throat, nasal passages, or spitting into a cup.
If you want to be tested for antibodies, make sure you find a reliable provider. Make sure that they are using a valid test. There are many tests on the market that FDA has not approved for emergency use. Grenache warns consumers against any pop-up clinic offering rapid finger-stick antigen testing with a drop of blood. The device looks very similar to a home pregnancy test. He says, “I wouldn’t trust that at any time.”
This story was accurate at press time. Some data may have changed as COVID-19’s situation continues to change. Health tries to keep its levels up-to-date, but we encourage readers to use the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments as resources to keep informed about news and recommendations.