It’s a new tool in the fight against COVID-19. Instead of testing if you are infected with the virus, the blood test detects whether you have already had it by measuring your antibody levels.
Any time you get sick with a virus or bacteria, your immune system produces antibodies -- and it’s something that can be tested.
“So, if we can detect those antibodies, that means you have had infection with that virus,” explained Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician, Dr. Juan Dumois with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Dumois said the antibody test for COVID-19 could be very useful in figuring out just how many people have been infected, especially since they know someone can contract the virus, get other people sick, and never have any symptoms.
“It gives you more accurate numbers for the rates of hospitalization for COVID-19, and much more accurate numbers on the death rates,” Dumois explained. “Because a death rate is the number of people who died divided by the number of people who were infected whether they had symptoms or not.”
He said since there is only testing to diagnose people who are sick, the current hospitalization and death rates aren’t accurate. The antibody test would give a much clearer picture of the spread of coronavirus infection across people who do and don’t have symptoms.
Another reason to start testing for COVID-19 antibodies is to figure out if being infected gives you any immunity.
“We want to know the quality of the immunity, and we would like to learn the duration of the immunity,” said Dumois. “After you’ve had COVID-19 are you protected for life, are you protected for a few months, a few years? Nobody knows the answer to that question.”
Governor Ron DeSantis thinks is important to know the data while we fight to slow the spread.
“People that are asymptomatic, how much are they spreading it, how many of them have it, I think those are gonna be good answers to have,” DeSantis said.
Dumois thinks the COVID-19 antibody test is going to be used more for targeted research studies rather than widespread, public testing.