I see advertisements for Covid-19 antibody tests. Is it worth getting tested? What will an antibody test tell me?

Testing and Contact Tracing

A: Antibody tests are important in understanding Covid-19 and its spread through a population, but the information might not be as useful on a personal level just yet.

When considering a serology test, we encourage you to think about why you are getting the test, where you will receive the test, and how it will influence knowledge about Covid-19 at large.

WHY: Antibody tests detect if the immune system has responded to a particular virus after exposure. We still don’t know the capacity of a Covid-19 immune response to protect a person from future exposure – do existing antibodies fight future exposures to the virus, what level of antibodies are needed to provide protection, how long do antibodies stick around? Reliable antibody tests at the population level are helpful in determining how many individuals in a population have been exposed and responded to a virus. This information is helpful in tracking the true ”footprint” of the virus to date.

WHERE: At this point, we know the accuracy of antibody tests in detecting an immune response specific to Covid-19 varies. There are more than 150 antibody (AKA serology) tests on the market that test your blood for antibodies to Covid-19. These tests are being offered by primary care offices, pharmacies, hospitals, and even directly to consumers. It’s important to know that the various serology tests are not all the same and have different levels of success in accurately detecting specific Covid-19 antibodies consistently. FDA approved serology tests are preferred to non-FDA approved tests because the FDA verifies test accuracy. If you are considering getting an antibody test, it’s most valuable to do so in partnership with a scientific study or department of health because the results of many tests can be aggregated in a purposeful way to answer unknown questions about Covid-19 immune responses and spread of infection through a population to date.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME: If you receive a Covid-19 antibody test and the results are positive, it’s still too soon to say what that actually means on an individual level. Assuming the test was accurate, it means you have been exposed and your immune system responded. It’s still too soon to determine how this would protect you in the future. That said, your antibodies are SUPER important in developing evidence-based responses to Covid-19 and we need you!

The Atlantic Article on Antibody Tests

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