Antibody tests can tell us if someone has been exposed to the virus; whereas the PCR test tells us if someone currently has the virus. The antibody test is useful to determine “immunity” of a person, but more research and more time are required to determine exactly what the means.
The recent increase of availability of testing and pop-up clinics around town will result in an increase in number of positive cases. Don’t let this alarm you. As the numbers of positive cases climb, this is due to availability of testing and does not equal more deaths. It’s great that there are more tests available. This means those of us who are asymptomatic can get tested. This is already happening in Bolinas, California. Their small town of about 1,600 people have decided to test everyone with both PCR and antibody test. It’s an experiment that will be interesting to watch closely.
“CAN I GET TESTED,” YOU ASK?
Under medicaid, testing with PCR should be covered if you test positive or negative and have symptoms under medicaid. We are not sure about antibody testing. For antibody testing, we collect a blood sample in a test tube and send it off for testing using 4 different antigens of the virus. The tests checks for levels of IgM, IgA and/or IgG antibodies in the blood. At this point, it’s unclear if the patient OR insurance OR the government will be paying for antibody tests. The hope and current understanding is that patients can later request reimbursement from their health insurance for any specialty lab testing.
For patients who have been exposed or have symptoms, PCR testing is covered through the CARES Act. Some employers are requiring testing before returning to work.
HOW ACCURATE IS THE ANTIBODY TEST?
Testing from Vibrant America has an overall sensitivity of over 97% and specificity over 98% for the combination of all 4 COVID19 proteins and the associated three antibodies being measured. This is based off about 340 tests, and is the most comprehensive testing available that we've been able to find. We also offer PCR and antibody testing through Quest, which is very affordable and 99% specific.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ANTIBODY TEST IS POSITIVE?
There are no recommendations from the OHA at this time. In South Korea, if you test positive even if you are asymptomatic (meaning having no symptoms), you quarantine for two weeks.
Some strains of virus keep shedding even after symptoms disappear meaning a person can continue to be contagious. Worse yet, a person could relapse. This means they never fully kicked the virus and their symptoms came back. It looks like this can happen with COVID19, but we'd like to emphasize the importance of the individual’s immune system’s influence on the timeline and progression of a disease.
If you are symptomatic, ideally you’d have both the PCR test and antibody test done. And then get tested after symptoms resolve to see if the virus is still present and if you’ve formed antibodies.
HOW CAN I GET A TEST?
We can help you get a test for "Coronavirus" or COVID-19 antibodies right now. A quick office visit is required so we can answer your questions and collect a sample. Book online or call our office for more information.