COVID antibody testing has become a pet peeve on mine because, with few exceptions, it’s a worthless test that wastes patient’s money.
First, let’s define some of the basic terms related to COVID testing.
ANTIGEN: This is the bad guy or part of the bad guy. If you have a positive ANTIGEN test, you have COVID in your nose/throat.
ANTIBODY: This is what your body makes after it finds an antigen in your body.
PCR: (Polymerase chain reaction). This again looks for pieces of the COVID virus in your nose/throat. So, a positive PCR test means you have the COVID virus in your nose/throat.
Now let’s talk about why the COVID antibody test has very little value for most patients.
1. Antibodies are made after you are sick, usually two weeks after exposure. So a positive test cannot tell you when you were sick (2 weeks ago, 2 months, or 6 months) or if you still have active COVID in your system.
2. Do antibodies mean you cannot get COVID again?
The short answer is we don’t know. Our body makes antibodies after exposures and sometimes, as in the case of HIV, antibodies do not help. So, we won’t really know if COVID antibodies provide long term protection for 1-10 years.
3. If I have a negative COVID antibody test, but I am feeling sick, does that mean I don’t have COVID?
Nope. As I noted above it can take up to two weeks for our bodies to create antibodies after exposure. So, on day 5 of your COVID illness you are unlikely to have a positive antibody test, but you will be contagious to others.
a. Why did President Trump test positive for antibodies so shortly after getting sick? He was given antibodies by transfusion. Mostly likely the antibody test detected the transfused antibodies.
4. When should I get a COVID antibody test?
If you want to donate plasma I believe Labcorp is offering FREE Antibody testing through November 2020. Otherwise, don’t waste your money and time. Check with your insurance company as they may not pay for COVID antibody testing. Testing can be quite expensive too as one lab in Texas charged insurance $10,984 for one antibody test.
In summary, a COVID antibody test is a waste of money and will not provide you any information regarding if your current illness is COVID or if you are an asymptomatic carrier.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at DrLovelace@derbycitydpc.com or 502-324-5416.