What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Antibody Testing

COVID-19 Antibody Testing

Antibody testing for COVID-19 is no longer new to us especially since the pandemic has worn on.

To date, there are three general methods to check for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19: (1) the RT-PCR method, (2) antigen testing and (3) antibody testing.

More about Covid-19 Testing HERE.

Antibody testing was popular early in the pandemic because many people thought they might have already had COVID prior to March.

It is also called a serology test. Unlike the tests that evaluate current infection, antibody testing is a blood draw.

At Well Life ABQ, very few of the hundreds tested were positive for COVID IgG antibodies.  These are the longer-lasting antibodies.

We do offer antibody testing at Well Life ABQ. Be aware that antibody testing currently has no role in controlling current infections. It is also unknown if positive antibodies translate into immunity.

NM Department of Health does state that a person that had COVID within three months doesn’t have to be retested or re-quarantined if a repeat exposure occurs.

Antibody testing is most helpful to epidemiologists and other researchers to track the spread of infection. But before you book that appointment, let us first learn a few basic facts about COVID-19 antibody testing.

In this article, you will get to know more about:

What is an antibody test?

An antibody test is a screening for specific antibodies in your blood. Your body produces antibodies in response to an infection, such as COVID-19. The same principle applies to vaccinations.

For instance: through a flu shot, you are being introduced to an attenuated or weakened version of the virus. This exposure allows your body, in the form of antibody production, to build immunity towards the virus.

Antibody testing does not check for the presence of the virus itself. Rather, it checks whether you have been exposed to the virus and have built an immune response to the infection.

How does an antibody test work?

COVID-19 antibody testing options are limited to the detection of either total antibody, or specifically two types of antibodies: the IgM and the IgG antibodies.

A blood sample will be drawn by your healthcare provider. The sample is processed and sent to the lab.

We currently use Boston Heart Diagnostics for this testing. The test we offer at the clinic looks for two kinds of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19):

  • IgM antibodies – these antibodies are the first to be produced by the body in response to the virus.It starts to become detectable in the blood at approximately 5 to 10 days following infection and onset of symptoms, then rising rapidly.It indicates an active or recent infection. It is not advisable however to test for IgM antibodies as early as 5 days following onset of symptoms.

    The IgM levels may still be extremely low in the bloodstream, leading to a false-negative result.

  • IgG antibodies – these antibodies are produced at a later phase in the infection. It may even persist in the blood for a few more weeks post-infection.IgG antibodies begin to appear in the bloodstream approximately 7 to 10 days after SARS-CoV-2 infection.Once IgG antibodies are present, it often implies a past infection but does not exclude recently infected patients who are still contagious.

It is still unclear about how long these antibodies remain in the body after an infection.

The latest research shows that seroconversion is within the first three weeks after the infection: with a mean time of 9-11 days after onset of symptoms for total antibody, 10-12 days for IgM, and 12-14 days for IgG.

Seroconversion means the change for an antibody test from positive to negative. This data may still change once more information about COVID-19 antibody seroconversion is obtained.

Another important fact: it also remains uncertain whether these IgM or IgG antibodies confer immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

What is the difference between an RT-PCR test and an antibody test?

The RT-PCR test, otherwise known as a diagnostic test, stands for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test. It specifically looks for signs of the active virus in the form of the virus’s genetic material.

Samples are taken through swabbing of the nares, oropharyngeal (throat) areas, or saliva collection (Watch the video below on how to do properly do it at home).

It is especially useful for patients who have symptoms and need immediate confirmation whether it is a COVID-19 infection or not.

Antibody testing requires a minimum number of days for it to become positive. The advantage of antibody testing is that it shows if you have had the virus at some point in the past few weeks. It can not identify if you are still contagious or not.

Antibody testing has been especially useful in the identification of people who have had the infection in the past. They may qualify for convalescent plasma donation.

Convalescent plasma is an experimental treatment for COVID-19. Early research has shown that plasma from previously infected individuals may help currently sick people recover faster.

How do I know if an Antibody test is accurate and reliable?

To understand a test’s accuracy, scientists investigate its sensitivity and specificity. You are assured of reliable results through the Well Life ABQ clinic’s antibody testing, which has a sensitivity and specificity of 95-99%.

What are the risks for COVID antibody tests and how do I avoid them?

Results of the COVID antibody test may not always be accurate. A large factor affecting this is the timing of the test in relation to when you experienced symptoms.

This occurs if the test is done before seroconversion occurs or after the antibodies have waned…leaving them undetectable or non-existent.

Why is COVID antibody testing done?

COVID antibody tests are done when:

  1. You have had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past few weeks and you were not tested. An antibody test will be useful in confirming if the past infection was indeed due to SARS-COV-2.

  2. You have had a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test in the past and are scheduled to undergo a medical procedure in a hospital or clinic. Not all centers or hospitals accept this form of testing, so you must follow their guidelines.

  3. You have had a COVID-19 infection in the past and want to participate in experimental treatments involving plasma donations. Plasma is a part of the blood that contains antibodies that may be useful for people with severe COVID infection.

  4. In children, antibody testing may be ordered to help doctors diagnose multisystem inflammatory syndrome for children (MIS-C). It was noted that many children with MIS-C have antibodies to COVID-19, indicating past infection with the virus.

What is meant by a positive or a negative result?

A negative antibody test means the absence of antibodies against COVID-19, so you probably did not have an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past.

However, false-negative results can happen if the sample is collected too soon or too late after the infection.

A positive test means the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 in your blood, indicating either a current infection or a past infection with the virus.

It is possible to have a positive result even in the absence of any symptoms related to COVID-19.

False-positive tests can also occur, which can be due to antibodies towards a strain of coronavirus that is closely related to SARS-CoV-2. False-positive tests can also happen if the test is flawed.

How do I get tested for COVID antibodies?

You can start by scheduling a blood draw using our online system. The test does not require fasting.

During your appointment, you will be asked for specific information, then proceed with payment and our technician will afterward draw your blood.

You will be given the choice of whether to get checked for both antibodies or be tested for the IgG or IgM antibody alone.

IgG is the antibody that persists around the longest and is typically recommended. IgM is a useful antibody to measure if you have been sick less than eight weeks prior to testing.

When will I get my results?

Your specimen will be processed and shipped to the laboratory. Turnaround time will vary, but you will usually have results within two to three days. These results will be confidential and emailed to you.

How much does a COVID antibody testing cost in the Well Life ABQ Clinic?

The cost of the antibody test at our clinic is $35 with insurance.

Self-pay patients who opt for both IgG and IgM testing will pay $110.

For self-pay patients who opt for testing for one antibody only, it will cost them $75.

For more information, call us at 505-585-2345.

What are your current protocols and precautions at the Well Life ABQ clinic?

For everybody’s safety, we have installed some protocols when visiting the clinic.

  1. We require no travel outside New Mexico within the past 14 days.
  2. The client or patient must also have no COVID symptoms or no known exposure to any COVID positive person.
  3. Your temperature will be checked upon arrival at the clinic.
  4. You will be instructed to wash your hands upon entry, and to wear a mask throughout your visit unless instructed otherwise…like during a mouth or throat exam.

Get tested at one of the most reliable clinics in the area. Book an online appointment now!

For further inquiries and clarifications regarding COVID-19 Antibody Testing, please do not hesitate to call the Well Life ABQ front desk at 505-585-2345. We will be happy to assist you!

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