some lucky people have no symptoms at all

The Covid-19 strain of Coronavirus has taken many forms among the patient population. Some individuals have very severe symptoms, ending up on a ventilator in the ICU with long-lasting effects. Some have a few days of cold-like symptoms, and some lucky people have no symptoms at all! Therefore, we are presented with the very real possibility that many people may have already had the disease and recovered from it. If so, they probably have some immunity built up.

It is easy to see why the public would want to know if they were one of the lucky ones who had already built immunity. As this pandemic wears on, we all crave a return to normalcy – immunity would be great news!

It is easy to see why the public would want to know if they were one of the lucky ones who had already built immunity. As this pandemic wears on, we all crave a return to normalcy – immunity would be great news!

What is an antibody?

You may remember from high school science class that antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections. They have a disease-specific “memory” that can prevent you from contracting the same disease again. The antibody cells recognize the disease and attack it before it can make you sick. You are likely more familiar with this in diseases like chicken pox or measles.

Antibody testing for Covid-19

It takes 1-3 weeks for a current Covid-19 infection to produce detectable antibodies in your system. If you are currently sick, you need a diagnostic test, not an antibody test. The antibody test is a blood test and must be obtained by coordinating with your physician and local lab.

If your are antibody test is positive:

According to the CDC, a positive result shows you have antibodies, and it may be from Covid-19. Before you get too excited, there are some important unknowns:

  • There is also a chance that a positive result comes from a virus from the same family, called coronaviruses, that can cause symptoms like the common cold.
  • It is uncertain how much antibodies provide you protection from Covid-19, or for how long.

If your antibody test is negative:

A negative test likely means that you have never had the Covid-19 virus.

  • It also may mean that you have a current infection and have not developed the antibodies yet.
  • Some people may take longer than normal to develop antibodies, and some who are infected may NEVER develop antibodies.

Whether your results are positive or negative, it is very important not to assume that you cannot transmit or still contract the virus. Do not abandon all the important precautions you have been taking to protect yourself and others.

After the antibody test:

Whether your results are positive or negative, it is very important not to assume that you cannot transmit or still contract the virus. Do not abandon all the important precautions you have been taking to protect yourself and others. The test can provide some peace of mind, and can be important when tracing infection outbreaks, but it cannot provide you a pass.

For more detailed information, you can read all about the different types of antibodies and testing being developed here.