An antibody test tells you if you have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, even if you only developed mild symptoms or were asymptomatic. Knowing this answer is an important piece of information as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.
Abbott offers separate antibody tests to detects the IgG and IgM antibodies. To understand a test’s accuracy, scientists look at sensitivity and specificity.
In medical and scientific language, the Abbott IgG antibody test has 99.63% specificity and 100% sensitivity at the time of detecting antibodies 14 days or greater, post symptom onset. This means that 14 days after the onset of symptoms, the test will identify an individual who has developed IgG antibodies to the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) 100 % of the time. This is called the sensitivity of the test. This means that if you have developed IgG antibodies to the COVID-19 virus the Abbott test is able to detect them. The Abbott test also tells you that the antibodies the test detected are antibodies to the COVID-19 virus 99.63% of the time. This is called the specificity of the test.
Similarly, Abbott’s AdviseDx SARS-CoV-2 IgM antibody test has a 99.56% specificity and 95% sensitivity for patients tested 15 days after symptoms started. Meaning that 15 days after the onset of symptoms, the test will identify an individual who has developed IgM antibodies to the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) 95% of the time (sensitivity) and 99.56%, the test tells you that the IgM antibodies detected are a result of the COVID-19 virus (specificity).
This means that if you receieve an Abbott test for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus that detected antibodies, there is great certainty that these antibodies are to the COVID-19 virus and there is almost no possibility that the antibodies the test detected developed in response to another virus that you were previously exposed to.
There are different COVID-19 tests available and it’s important to use the right test at the right time during the disease progression. During the early period of infection (0-14 days after symptoms begin), a molecular/RNA or antigen test is used to measure the presence of the virus indicating early active infection. Antibody tests are designed to detect if a person has developed antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19, and are used to detect previous infections in which an immune response was developed to fight off the virus. People typically begin to develop antibodies 1-3 weeks after symptoms began, so these tests are usually used about 14-21 days following the start of symptoms. In certain cases, such as when it is not clear when symptoms started, both tests may be recommended by your physician.
Developing antibodies to this virus tells you that your body has produced a defensive response, what is medically called an ‘immune response’ to fight off the virus. Research is underway to learn if the antibodies you developed will prevent you from becoming infected again as happens with antibodies that form after infection with other viruses like chickenpox or measles. However, because the COVID-19 virus is so new, we still don’t know if the antibodies you develop will lead to your having immunity, which would prevent you from becoming infected again. This is something the scientific community will actively be studying to provide recommendations going forward.
When your test is positive for the IgG antibodies for the COVID-19 virus, it means that your body is fighting off the infection or has already fought it off. Typically for most viruses, once you have developed the IgG antibodies, you are no longer contagious because the antibodies attack and inactivate the virus. But because the COVID-19 virus is new, more research is needed to determine if this is true for this specific virus.
If your test is positive for the IgM antibodies for the COVID-19 virus it typically means you were more recently infected, as IgM is typically the first antibody produced by the body to fight and control a virus, and in general stays in the blood for up to 3-8 weeks.
Regardless of the results, it is important to still remain vigilant about practicing good hygiene measures and social distancing to avoid getting infected and you should always talk to your physician if you have questions about managing your health.
Antibody tests are playing a critical role in learning more about the virus and the fight against COVID-19. Antibody tests can provide public health officials with information on how many people in the community have been infected, which is important with COVID-19 as we have learned that some people do not have symptoms or have few symptoms. It can help public health officials learn more about how the virus spreads within communities and which groups of people were most susceptible to being infected, while also identifying which groups of people have recovered.
In addition, if you do test positive for antibodies, you may be a candidate to donate your plasma to be used for a patient treatment called convalescent plasma therapy that is being used by several leading healthcare institutions to help patients with COVID-19 who are sick or critically ill to recover. Studies have shown that plasma donations from patients who have overcome the virus can help patients who are still struggling with it currently.
We recommend consulting with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Some facilities do require a doctor’s referral, but you can also request a test directly through a national laboratory location. All that may be required is completing a quick, simple questionnaire. Click here for more information.
You don't have to have a specific awareness of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus to have an antibody test. You should discuss your testing options with your healthcare provider. The decision for testing is a personal healthcare decision which is up to each individual. People who live with elderly parents or grandparents, with someone who has underlying health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma or COPD or with someone who is immune compromised, those who have traveled or simply recall being ill, may decide they want to have an antibody test. Or, you may choose to get tested simply for your own personal knowledge.
While processing times do vary, in general, COVID-19 antibody test results can be available in as little as 2-3 days.
Abbott does not determine the price of the test to the patient. The cost of the test depends on how it is obtained. Considerations that may impact the out of pocket cost to you may include your particular medical insurance coverage and whether tests are reimbursed for medical necessity and doctor interpretation/office visits.
The SARS-C0V-2 IgG assay and the AdviseDx SARS-CoV-2 IgM assay have not been FDA cleared or approved. It has been authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization for use by authorized laboratories. The test has been authorized only for the detection of the IgM and IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens, and is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostic tests for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner
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