As the country prepares to open, many are considering getting an antibody test. I wanted to share my thoughts on this because there are important factors to consider.
I am hearing many people say things like 'I need to get tested so I know it is safe for me to go out'. Here's the deal. Based on current information available to May 10th 2020, we simply don't know if a positive antibody test tells you to that you are safe and protected from a re-infection. There are three big unknowns that are stopping me digging into my pockets:
a) We do not know IF the presence of antibodies in the blood indicates immunity. Even if it did, we do not know HOW MUCH antibody (what concentration) is needed to confer immunity. With some infections e.g. Hepatitis B, we test for antibodies and also look at the titer to determine if someone has immunity and how adequate it is. I think the antibody test plays an important role in guiding our next steps in the fight against the pandemic, such as by providing information on disease prevalence, community spread, and the frequency of asymptomatic infection, but right now I don't think it is helpful in determining individual risk for infection/re-infection.
b) None of the tests are perfect. There are a handful of FDA approved ones and a myriad of others that have flooded onto the market, which have not been validated or 3rd party tested. My main concern is around the false positives. Since the test is not 100% accurate, there is a chance it comes back falsely positive i.e. when someone has NOT been exposed to or had the infection. The concern I have then is if the person assumes they have immunity, drops their guard, especially if they are in the high risk or vulnerable group. This leads me onto the next point
c) This virus may mutate (research suggests it already has done) - and therefore if it does, someone who has had it may well get it again. Currently, research indicates that this virus is relatively stable, which is good news, but for me to be reassured, more data is needed.
So, until the tests are more accurate, and we have reliable information on what the presence of antibodies mean, and what titers are needed to confer immunity, I will be taking a raincheck on that antibody test. Personally, I would rather spend my efforts on optimizing my health and resilience.
Please note that this information may not apply to you, and you may well have circumstances in which an antibody test is useful. So please discuss this with your doctor as this blog post is for education only and not medical advice. Information about the virus and test kits are evolving by the day, and so this may not be accurate at a later date as tests evolve.