What is Antibody Testing?
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, there has been renewed hope with the development of new types of testing. The increased availability of testing will help us understand who has been exposed to the coronavirus and who might be immune. An important type of testing is antibody testing.
Antibody testing differs from the typical COVID-19 diagnostic testing that has been available over the last month. The typical diagnostic test is called a PCR test. It is a nasal or oral swab that looks for the genetic signature of a virus. Accuracy issues aside, a positive test tells you that you have a current infection. Antibody testing is a blood test that looks for antibodies in the blood.
Antibodies to the coronavirus will be created by your immune system if you’ve been exposed to the virus, even if you never developed symptoms. Since a high percentage of people with the coronavirus either do not show any symptoms or only show mild symptoms, it’s possible that many people have been exposed to the virus without knowing it. Antibody testing will tell you if you’ve been exposed.
What are Antibodies?
Antibodies are created to different pieces of the coronavirus. These pieces are called antigens. Antibody testing can be performed with different antigens as well as different antibody classes. Different antibody classes are made during different times of an infection. IgM antibodies are created at the beginning of an infection but go away after the infection is resolved. IgG antibodies take longer to develop, but they stay in the blood for a long time. There are other classes of antibodies, including IgA and IgE. Tests that assess more types of antigens and antibody classes are more thorough.
When your immune system makes antibodies, it helps to fight the virus and reduces the chances of future infections. The build up of antibodies provides immunity. Developing immunity in a large number of people reduces the transmission of the disease. While we don’t know for sure if having antibodies to the coronavirus will give long-term immunity (many, but not all diseases are like this), having antibodies suggests you may be safe to be around others without contracting the virus again.
Not All Antibody Tests are Created Equally
Antibody testing for the coronavirus is a critical step in getting our society back to normal, but not all antibody tests are created the same. Choosing an antibody test that checks for as many combinations of antigens and antibody classes as possible reduces the chance of inaccuracies in the tests called false negatives. The more virus components tested, the more likely it is to catch if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.
At Synapse, we’ve looked at several companies that offer coronavirus antibody tests to find the best fit for our patients and community. We’ve searched for companies who are transparent about their testing and who check for a wide variety of antigens and antibody types. Not all companies fit that bill. Many companies are not transparent about their testing. Some check only one antigen and others only check one class of antibodies. These limited tests have higher potential for inaccurate results.
The testing that we have chosen is highly accurate and checks for 4 antigens across 3 antibody classes. This gives us a total of 12 different test results. The company has provided us with a wealth of information backing up their test. This level of thoroughness increases the likelihood of having an accurate assessment of coronavirus exposure. It has also given us peace of mind that we’ve selected an appropriate test for our patients and community.
How Can I Get Tested?
We are currently offering this test to our patients and the greater community. We are using Lab Team Assistants to perform our blood draws for the antibody tests. They have a blood draw site in Bloomington, MN and they also offer mobile phlebotomy in certain areas. In the near future, we will be offering at-home finger prick testing that does not require a blood draw.
To get started, click the button below. You will be asked to enter your name and contact information so we know how to get in contact with you. Next, you will be shown a link to a scheduling page. Click the link and select an available time to set up your free phone consultation. We will call you to do the short, free consultation to go over the specifics of the test and how to get it performed.