Antibodies: Helping you Fight COVID-19

Antibodies are key to health. We’re breaking down what they are, how your body makes them and why they matter.

Diagnostics Testing|Jun.11, 2020

A single cough can spray tens of thousands of particles into the air. And any one of them could make a person sick.

But what exactly happens inside your body when a virus invades? And what does that have to do with antibodies?

We've got you covered. Check out this quick and easy breakdown of what antibodies are and how they help you.

1. It starts with a virus. Viruses are tiny; billions could fit on the head of a pin. Respiratory viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, often spread through coughing, sneezing, speaking or even breathing – all of which spray droplets containing the virus into the air.

2. The invasion. Once viral particles enter your body, they invade cells, creating millions of copies of themselves.

3. Cue the immune system. Immune cells (white blood cells) patrol your bloodstream looking for foreign substances known as antigens, which can include viruses, bacteria or chemicals. When an antigen is detected, your immune cells sound the alarm.

4. It's go time. The immune system triggers a response to attack the foreign invader, which often leads to a fever, body aches and the production of — you guessed it — antibodies.

5. The A team. Antibodies are proteins produced in response to a specific foreign invader, an antigen. The IgM antibody is assembled first as the body actively fights the infection and the presence of this antibody may indicate a more recent infection. Then the IgG antibody is created, after the acute infection. IgG antibody has the potential to provide long-lasting immunity to a virus. For COVID-19, the science is still unfolding, but we hope to have an answer on immunity in the near future.

6. Antibodies in action. Antibodies circulate in your blood, hunting for antigens they recognize. When a familiar antigen is spotted, antibodies can stop it from entering or damaging your cells. Meaning? Having enough of the right kinds of antibodies can often keep you from getting sick with the same virus more than once. Again, we need science to tell us what this means for COVID-19.

Abbott’s antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2 are helping healthcare workers around the world determine if a person was previously infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and are providing a more holistic look at where a person is in their recovery. It is also helping communities understand how many people have had the virus.

There are a variety of tests used to detect COVID-19. They include molecular tests that detect the genetic material of the virus and antigens.

Learn more about how Abbott’s antibody tests work and why they’re important.

This story was originally published on June 11, 2020. It was updated on November 11 to reflect that Abbott received emergency use authorization of its AdviseDx IgM test.