After weeks, and now months, of the coronavirus pandemic plaguing our every day lives, experts are seeking out any and all possible solutions to help beat the novel virus. This now includes antibody tests, which determine whether people who have had the virus are developing an immunity to it that could help us understand the nature of COVID-19 better.
An antibody test, also called a serological test, is not the same thing as a coronavirus test, and doesn’t necessarily determine if someone has COVID-19 now. Instead, it detects whether someone has already had COVID-19 by measuring antibody levels. Antibodies ultimately help the body neutralize foreign substances so that the body can handle being sick. For example, anyone who has COVID-19 and survives will develop antibodies specific to that strain of coronavirus.
Antibody testing began in early April after the FDA approved a new program under an Emergency Use Authorization in response to the coronavirus pandemic. If someone takes an antibody test and COVID-19 antibodies are present, it would indicate that the person had previously had the disease and could potentially be immune to that strain. And, according to Science Magazine, antibody tests could be an incredibly important way to gauge how many people have been infected from COVID-19 already and survived the first of multiple strains of the virus.
Now, many people are wondering how and when they’ll be able to get an antibody test for themselves or anyone in their shelter. As of now, access and availability vary from state-to-state, and even in different cities and localities in states. In states like New York that have been heavily affected by large numbers of sick people earlier than other states have already been administering testing, and those test results are becoming more and more telling as they come in.
Additionally, the FDA has given companies approval to sell their tests, meaning while they aren’t FDA-approved, the manufacturers of the tests have promised to follow certain rules when making them. According to the Mayo Clinic, the roll out of these tests will differ based on location and needs, but many states have already been working on making these tests possible.
Antibody tests are also being explored as a means for COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma — a potential treatment for those who are sick or most susceptible to becoming very ill from the coronavirus. While there’s still no vaccine that’s tried and true, and may not be for another 12-18 months, knowledge is power — and the more antibody tests that can be given to people, the more information we have about exactly how many people have had the disease, and how many beat it.