Nearly a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on March 11, 2020, countries worldwide have adapted to living life in the new normal. Nowadays, people across the globe consciously practise social distancing in public places while wearing face masks or shields and cleansing their hands with a sanitiser prior to touching their nose or mouth, to avert acquiring the coronavirus infection. While doctors, medical researchers and scientists presently have gained vast knowledge regarding the symptoms, prevention and successful treatment measures for COVID-19, with even preventive vaccines being rolled out globally for the viral infectious disease affecting the upper respiratory tract, cases continue to be on the rise.
Thus, testing procedures are vital to determine if an individual is infected with the coronavirus and also if those who have tested positive and recovered are still carrying the viral strain, to halt further widespread transmission of the harmful disease. In this regard, in addition to the nasal swab and throat swab, the COVID antibody test is a simple, straightforward assay that indicates if a person has contracted the coronavirus infection. While the nasal swab and throat swab are carried out to identify the presence of the causative microorganism - coronavirus strain, in the systems of people, the COVID antibody test works by identifying the presence of antibodies in their blood complementary to the pathogenic microbe – the SARS-CoV-2 viral strain. It is hence essential to understand the procedure involved in a COVID antibody test, who should take it and when, besides the implications of the results of this serology test – a diagnostic assay conducted to examine the contents of serum in blood.
What Is The COVID Antibody Test?
The COVID Antibody Test is a basic diagnostic process that determines if safeguarding proteins known as antibodies for the specific disease-causing pathogen – coronavirus antigen, are present in the blood serum of the person. When a virus such as the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2 invades the body of a healthy individual, the immune system is activated and produces antibodies – proteins complementary to the antigen structures found on the viral vector. These antibodies offer protection from COVID-19 disease by attaching to the antigen proteins and hampering their destructive abilities.
The test involves a doctor or pathologist collecting a blood sample from the person, either by pricking on a finger or inserting a sterile injection into a vein on one arm. This blood sample is then tested in the laboratory utilising an ELISA protocol – Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay, to look for any type of antibodies for COVID-19. These antibodies are generally of two kinds:
Immunoglobulin M type of antibodies are formed in the early stages of coronavirus infection, typically 7 to 10 days after contracting COVID-19 and peak at 14 days post infection.
Immunoglobulin G type antibodies are produced in the later phases of coronavirus infection, usually around 14 days after acquiring COVID-19 and attain a peak concentration at 21 days following infection.
Who Should Take It And When?
Primarily, the COVID antibody test is done for those who have already tested positive for coronavirus infection and have undergone the appropriate course of treatment to resolve the associated symptoms of fever, cough, breathing difficulty. Taking the COVID antibody test assists in confirming if they have completely recovered from the infectious viral ailment.
Additionally, people who have come in direct contact with COVID-19 infected persons and experience some associated symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection such as cough, sore throat, fever, breathing distress, fatigue, headaches, loss of sense of smell, taste can also take the COVID antibody test.
The COVID antibody test is, however, not a confirmatory diagnostic assay to detect coronavirus infection in a person, especially if they suffer from fever due to other microbial infections, aside from autoimmune disorders like lupus. Furthermore, the COVID antibody test is not ideal to detect antibodies for the coronavirus strain if the person has been diagnosed with the disease very recently i.e. less than 10 days before.
What Are The Possible Outcomes Of The Test?
If the results of COVID antibody test for a person indicate the presence of antibodies to the coronavirus strain, then it implies that the individual has had COVID-19 in the past. There is no need to panic though, for it also suggests that the person has a healthy immune system that has formed complementary defensive antibodies and developed a fair level of immunity to the disease.
If the COVID antibody test specifies negative results for an individual, then it means that the person has never acquired COVID-19 even once or has not developed the disease for a long period of time wherein there was no necessity for the immune system to produce antibodies for the same.
The COVID antibody test is a useful diagnostic tool, especially to study if a COVID positive person has recovered from the condition completely and if their immune system if functioning well to defend against the coronavirus infection. It is mostly suggested only for those who have already been infected with COVID-19 or have come in close contact with a sick person with coronavirus infection and are experiencing symptoms following the incident. Consulting with a healthcare professional, doctor or physician prior to taking the COVID antibody test is essential, so as to know if the person absolutely requires to take the diagnostic blood test.