What is Coronavirus Antibody Testing?

Martha S. Steffen, PA-

By: Martha Steffen, PA-C

Coronavirus antibody tests have been recently made available to patients. These tests were thought to enable detection of previous infection with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19). The goal in testing was to determine prior infection and potential immunity from re-exposure to the virus. Businesses and governments were optimistic that this would help re-open businesses, travel and recreation.

Unfortunately, the testing may not be as helpful as we would have liked because of the following:

  • The Food and Drug Administration has relaxed some of its prior criteria in validating the testing. This has led to a flood of available antibody tests which may not have the best accuracy.
  • Just because someone has positive antibodies to COVID-19 does not necessarily mean they have immunity or protection against reinfection. We actually don’t know yet if the level of antibodies corresponds to protection and if the levels of antibodies decrease in time. Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-Co-2 coronavirus strains.
  • Negative test results indicate that an individual has not developed detectable antibodies at the time of testing. This could be due to testing too early in the course of infection, absence of exposure to the virus, or the lack of adequate immune response.
antibody tests

Who should get an antibody test?

If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and have complete resolution of symptoms, you can volunteer to donate plasma as an alternative to an antibody test. This can be done through the local Red Cross, Denver Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado Hospital or through the the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. This testing will be helpful for understanding the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.

How do you get tested?

Your provider can order testing through local labs (LabCorp, Quest) if appropriate.

As a reminder: These tests are not used to diagnose the virus.