As some of you may know, I have been providing antibody testing for food intolerances to clients of my health coaching practice since 2015. My diagnostic testing partner has created an FDA-approved antibody test for COVID-19. If you are wondering whether or not taking this test may be right for you, please feel free to reach out to me for further discussion.
During our current COVID-19 crisis, the importance of reliable, accessible testing to screen for the disease has become increasingly apparent. The FDA is in the process of approving antibody tests for the coronavirus. In this blog, I'll explain the difference in the types of tests available today to help with some of the confusion surrounding what the tests actually test.
Presently, a nasal swab test is the most widely used test to diagnose active cases of COVID-19, but blood serum tests are gaining traction to fulfill a need.
A nasal swab (polymerase chain reaction-PCR) test detects if the virus (the RNA) is present in the nasal cavity at the time of the swab. A positive PCR tests tells if you are infected - whether you are asymptomatic or exhibiting symptoms.
The value of these tests during a pandemic is that people can be detected early, isolated, and allow officials can get a clearer picture of the spread within a population. Currently, however, these tests are recommended only for people who have symptoms or may have been exposed to an infected person because it detects active virus only. They are unfortunately in short supply (compared to the number of requests), are labor intensive, and false negatives can occur up to 30% of the time. As the number of people tested increases, so does the turnaround time for receiving results (up to 10 days).
A blood serum antibody test can tell you if you whether or not your body has created antibodies to fight the virus which will confirm if you have been exposed to the virus. If you were infected or if you suspect that you were exposed to coronavirus but showed limited or no symptoms, antibodies will be circulating in your blood – even if your immune system has already fought off the infection. Antibodies from past infections remain in your body and serve as markers to past exposures. Antibody tests for SARS showed that most people had antibodies for years after infection!
As this pandemic moves through its phases, an antibody test becomes even more useful because it not only tests the presence of an infection , it also tests both those who were asymptomatic and/or those who exhibited symptoms but were given the nasal swab test when the virus was no longer in the nasal cavity and generated a ‘false’ negative.
Both tests are vital in determining immunity within the population- more testing gives a clearer picture and will help determine mobility of the population in the weeks ahead. If you are wondering which test is right for you, you’re not alone.
The best guidelines at this time are:
1. If you are exhibiting symptoms at this time, call your health care provider to see if you qualify for a nasal swab test.
2. If you don’t qualify for a nasal swab test or think you may have received a false negative on a nasal swab test, you may want to consider waiting until your symptoms have subsided and request an antibody test.
3. If you have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or suspect you had a mild or asymptomatic case and are curious whether or not you had the virus, you may want to consider requesting an antibody test.