People who have been infected with COVID-19 are often witnessed getting an antibody test later to identify if they are safe from the virus or not, given that their body has produced antibodies that will refrain from the virus attacking them again. Dr. Zara Hassan (Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) and Dr. Adil Haider. ( Dean, Medical College) at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), debunk the myths around the antibody test and tell us if we are protected if our antibody tests are positive.
How Does the Antibody test work?
Dr. Zara Hassan: The body has many blood cells that work together to clear viruses. Each of these cells has a different job. Antibodies are made by one of these cell types. And usually, we measure antibodies to identify a disease.
Dr. Adil Haider: If you have had the infection, do you get antibodies after that?
Dr. Zara Hassan: The host will see the virus as a whole, and there are many proteins in the structure of the virus, and antibodies will be developed to different parts of the virus. So the test actually tells you about antibodies to only one part of the virus, which can be confusing because it doesn’t tell you about other antibodies that have not been tested for.
Dr. Adil Haider: Oh, so you might have the positive antibodies, or you may not have positive antibodies after you’ve had an infection.
Dr. Zara Hassan: That is correct.
What about vaccination? So once I get vaccinated, should I then have antibodies from COVID. Should I be checking my antibodies?
Dr. Zara Hassan: Well, antibody levels change over time. They come up after a number of days of infections, and they then come down, and after vaccination, the issue is that again, it depends on the test being used, because if you’re looking at exposure, you may have the antibody, but if you’re looking at forced vaccination testing, the commercially available diagnostic tests that I usually use, don’t tell you completely about whether or not, you have a full antibody response, and also antibodies don’t work alone.
Dr. Adil Haider: So then this getting antibody tests after vaccination really is not helpful.
Dr. Zara Hassan: No, it isn’t because it will confuse you. If you have a negative response, people will worry that they’re not protected, and if you have a positive response, it may not necessarily mean that you’re completely protected.
Dr. Adil Haider: So to remain completely protected, get vaccinated. Don’t worry about antibodies and continue to wear a mask, and practice social distancing.
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