Q: should I get an antibody testing?

In any infectious disease outbreak, two important questions emerge:

1.  is there a reliable way to detect whether I have been infected with the virus?

2.  how susceptible am I to contract the disease, and how do I get immunity so that future exposure to the virus will not harm me?

Here at ReNovi, we have put in place a sophisticated plan to continually gather information on the latest development for DIAGNOSTIC testing methods as well as tests that detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (associated with the specific type of Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China).  

Companies around the world are racing against time to come up with reliable tests that can detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.  However, the antibody test is not expected to definitively diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection.  (see the warning from FDA: FDA Warns of COVID-19 antibody testing limitations )

Serological antibody tests are designed to detect antibodies present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection.  They test your own body's immune response to the infection caused by the virus.  They do not detect the virus.

One limitation might lead to a false negative in an antibody testing.  The uncertainty results from the timing of when your antibody test takes place, relative to a variety of factors such as the timeline of when you are suspected to have contracted the virus.  That gets into epidemiology and tracing your likely timeline based on types of symptoms and contact exposure.  In the early days of an infection, when the body's immune response still builds, antibodies might not be at detectable levels.   So, let's suppose you do have the virus, but the antibody test is administered prematurely, and shows up negative.  You might actually already have virus, and later on develop some kind of immunity, but your antibody test result still shows otherwise.

The antibody tests that are authorized currently measure IgM and/or IgG antibodies.  IgM antibodies may not develop early, or at all, in infected patients.  Therefore IgM tests are not used to rule out SARS-CoV-2 in an individual.

Since IgG antibodies generally tend to not develop until later, it is not used to rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection in a person either.  IgG is more specific to SARS-CoV-2.

The usefulness of antibody test is maximized when you have an experienced healthcare professional to guide you.  It is a valuable tool if you know what it means, and what you are supposed to do with the result.   We are continually learning whether or not and how long a person who has recovered from the virus is at lower risk of infection if he/she is exposed to the virus again.

 

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