With the number of COVID-19 cases rapidly rising, it is important to stay up to date with accurate information surrounding coronavirus testing. Throughout this global pandemic, the internet along with the media have played an essential role in facilitating how we receive information and updates regarding the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Sometimes the information presented is somewhat conflicting. Many are concerned and asking questions about the accuracy and effectiveness of COVID-19 antibody tests and viral tests. However, some discussions have led to more questions than answers.
ThermoGenesis is here to help clear up misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 testing, as well as to address the most common questions currently being asked. Knowing the answers to these questions can help further guide individuals to make the best decisions for the health of themselves and their families.
What is the Purpose of a COVID-19 Antibody Test?
As the name suggests, an antibody test looks for the presence of certain antibodies in an individual’s blood sample. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system develops in response to a virus or pathogenic bacteria and can stay in the system for a period of time after recovery. They work as a defense for your immune system and help guard against future re-infections. A COVID-19 antibody test detects if a person’s immune system has developed IgG and IgM antibodies in response to the virus. Although the test is not specifically meant to diagnose an active coronavirus infection, it is able to provide valuable information to the individuals being tested as well as healthcare professionals on a local and national level.
It is important to note that we still don’t know exactly how long the antibodies will protect against future COVID-19 re-infections, making it crucial to adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear protective face when in public coverings.
What Do Antibody Test Results Mean?
A positive test result will show that you have developed IgM and IgG antibodies from a past coronavirus infection.
IgM antibodies are the first antibodies that your immune system develops during a COVID-19 infection. They can develop as early as the first few days. The presence of these antibodies within a patient shows that they have been recently infected with coronavirus, and their body could still be in the process of active infection. Since the antibody test is not used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection, if an individual tests positive for IgM antibodies, they should strongly consider getting a supplemental viral test to confirm the presence of an infection.
IgG antibodies will usually develop within 7 to 10 days after an individual develops symptoms from a COVID-19 infection and will typically remain long after the active infection has passed. While the presence of these antibodies could indicate that a person was infected by the virus and has developed an immune response it is unknown how long this immune response, and therefore protective immunity, will last.
It is also possible to test positive for the IgG and IgM antibodies without ever displaying any symptoms, meaning a person could have been an asymptomatic carrier of the virus in the past.
How is the Antibody Test Conducted?
The entire process of getting a COVID-19 Antibody test usually takes about fifteen minutes, including the time it takes to get the results back.
Here is the breakdown of the typical process:
- A healthcare professional will start by collecting a single drop of blood from a person’s fingertip
- They will then mix the blood with a special reagent that is included in the antibody test kit
- The blood/reagent mixture will then be added into the test cartridge
- The patient is presented with their results
When Should I Get an Antibody Test?
- If you are recommended to get one by your doctor or healthcare provider
- If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past but did not get tested
- If you know someone close to you who was infected by COVID-19
- If you have been to a place where COVID-19 is common or widespread
The COVID-19 Antibody test is not used to determine if you have an active COVID-19 infection. If you are displaying symptoms, please strongly consider receiving a viral test.
Are the Results of the Antibody Test Accurate?
As with any test, there is a small (less than five percent) possibility of false-negative or false-positive results.
It is important to consider the timing of your antibody test. Since it normally takes a few days for antibodies to develop, testing too early in the course of an infection may provide false results. A way to combat false-negative or false-positive results is to test frequently. With the numbers of coronavirus cases on the rise, the possibility of encountering the virus rises along with it.
What is a COVID-19 Viral (RT-PCR) Test?
COVID-19 viral tests are used to test whether an individual is currently infected with the coronavirus. A viral test, such as a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, is used to detect the virus’s genetic material. Another type of viral test, the rapid antigen test, looks for molecules on the surface of the virus. While the RT-PCR test can take hours or even days to get results, the antigen rapid tests can provide results in about 15 minutes.
A viral test should be conducted by a healthcare professional who will use a long swab to collect a sample from the uppermost part of the throat, which is located right behind the nose, although some test kits may also use saliva samples.
Does the Viral Test Hurt?
A healthcare professional will gently insert the long swab far into an individual’s nose, twirl the swab around and then remove it and place it in a vial that will be sent for testing. If the test is conducted properly it should not be painful. However, due to the nature of the test and how far the swab needs to go into the nasal cavity, people have reported experiencing some slight discomfort.
Are Viral Tests Accurate?
Viral tests have been proven useful in determining whether a person is actively infected with the virus. They also allow health officials to see how quickly the virus can spread and how widespread the virus is within a certain area or region.
Like with the antibody test, it is possible to produce a false-negative test result based on how early you get tested. Researchers have found that a person can be tested too early for the virus, which would result in a false-negative.
It is also possible that if the test is not properly conducted it could result in a false-negative result. If an individual receives a negative test result, but begins to exhibit symptoms of infection, a second test can prove to be beneficial.
When Should I Get a COVID-19 Viral Test?
There are a few different reasons to consider getting a COVID-19 viral test.
- You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
- You have come in close contact with someone that has been confirmed to have COVID-19
- You are recommended or asked to get tested by your doctor or healthcare professional
If I Test Negative for COVID-19, Does That Mean I Can’t get Sick?
Receiving a negative test result on a COVID-19 test does not mean that you are not at risk of getting coronavirus. As stated, it is also possible to be exposed to the virus after your test. Please continue following social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask and avoiding unnecessary interaction with people outside your household. While waiting for your test results, you should self-quarantine until you receive the “all-clear.”
How ThermoGenesis Can Help
With the amount of information circulating about COVID-19, understanding the difference between the kinds of tests available is vital to make the best decisions for you and your family. ThermoGenesis is working to make innovative healthcare solutions accessible to healthcare providers during the crisis through their Antibody Test Kit and COVID-19 Coronavirus Real Time PCR Kit. If you’re a healthcare professional, working in a CLIA-certified lab looking for more information or want to inquire about testing services, visit the website and request a quote today.
ThermoGenesis Holdings, Inc. (formerly Cesca Therapeutics Inc.), is a pioneer and market leader in the development and commercialization of automated cell processing technologies for the cell and gene therapy fields. They market a full suite of solutions for automated clinical biobanking, COVID-19 testing, point-of-care applications and large-scale cell processing and manufacturing with a special emphasis on the emerging CAR T immunotherapy market. The company is committed to making the world a healthier place by creating innovative health solutions for everyone.