There’s a lot of confusion about COVID-19 antibody testing, why you should do it, and what the results mean–especially now with new COVID-19 variants thrown into the mix.
Antibodies: Your body’s natural defense
Before we delve into the importance of antibody testing for to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, let’s discuss what antibodies are and the vital role they play in your health.
Antibodies are proteins created by your body’s immune system to fight viruses, bacteria, and other infectious microorganisms. Think of them as your body’s way of preparing for battle against an invader. The catch is that antibodies are specifically designed for their intended target, so antibodies created to fight one virus will not protect your body from another. If you’ve had chickenpox, then your body has antibodies for the chickenpox virus–but chickenpox antibodies will not protect you from SARS-CoV-2.
Antibodies on alert
Antibody testing is used to detect the presence of antibodies to a specific infection. In the case of COVID-19 antibody tests, testing is used to look for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Specific antibody tests for new COVID-19 variants (including the B.1.17, B.1.351, and P1) are currently in development as well. It takes 1-3 weeks after exposure to the virus for your body to develop COVID-19 antibodies.
Because antibodies are abundant in the bloodstream, most antibody tests are blood tests. Antibodies are also present in saliva and other body fluids and there are many saliva-based antibody tests on the market today. However, they may not be as accurate as blood tests.
Who should get a COVID-19 antibody test?
If you currently have symptoms of COVID-19, antibody testing is not what you need. FastMed provides COVID-19 antibody testing for patients who have never been symptomatic or who were symptomatic but have been recovered for at least two weeks.
A COVID-19 antibody test is NOT used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection and a negative result for antibodies does not rule out past infection either. Only a diagnostic COVID-19 test can confirm your current infection status (FastMed offers a variety of diagnostic tests in addition to antibody testing).
I have COVID-19 antibodies. Am I immune?
Researchers are working to answer this question. But as of now, testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies does not imply or confirm that you are immune to the COVID-19 virus. It only indicates that you were likely exposed to or infected by the virus in the past or had a positive immune response to a SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.
So, why is COVID-19 antibody testing important? Because it helps people (especially those without symptoms) know how to protect themselves and others. Even with antibodies, you can still catch COVID-19 or unknowingly spread the disease to someone else, even if you don’t have symptoms.
If you receive positive results on an antibody test without symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been around others who may have COVID-19, you can continue with normal activities while still wearing a mask and social distancing. If you were recently sick or around someone with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you quarantine for 10 days after symptoms first appear and until you are fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications.
Find a COVID-19 antibody test near me
FastMed is now offering faster results with COVID-19 rapid antibody testing available at all locations. Your results will be ready within an hour, and most major insurances are accepted for this test. Affordable self-pay options are also available.
In addition to providing convenient COVID-19 testing, FastMed is dedicated to keeping our community educated on the latest health updates. Please visit our COVID-19 testing page for more information, testing options available, and FAQs.
FastMed is one of the nation’s largest urgent care providers, proudly serving communities across North Carolina. FastMed provides a broad range of acute/episodic, preventive, and occupational healthcare – in its clinics and via telemedicine – as well as family medicine at select locations. FastMed is one of the few urgent care providers in the nation that has earned The Joint Commission’s coveted Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information, visit www.fastmed.com.