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COVID-19 Antibody Tests

Taxonomy Code: LF-4900.1562

Commercially manufactured antibody tests available through health care providers and commercial laboratories that check for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in individuals. Antibody tests (sometimes referred to as "serology tests") look for the presence of antibodies, which are specific proteins created by the person's immune system in response to infections. A positive result indicates that the person was previously infected with the virus, even though they were never diagnosed with the virus and/or never felt sick. Individuals who take the test are being advised to talk with their health care provider about the results and the type of test that they took, and may get a suggestion from their provider that they take a second type of antibody test to see if the first test results were accurate. Antibody test results are especially important for detecting previous infections in people who had few or no symptoms, and have been used in surveillance studies to calculate the percentage of people in a particular community who have been infected in the past and may have some measure of immunity. However, they should not be confused with diagnostic tests which determine whether an individual has an active infection, nor should they be used to make any decisions about individuals, e.g., whether it is safe for them to return to work. There are questions about the validity of some of the available antibody tests (false positives and false negtives), and some official reports of infection levels combine diagnostic test figures with antibody test results creating an inaccurate picture of the actual infection rates in the community and how the virus is spreading through the population over time. Scientists do not know yet if the antibodies will protect the individual from reinfection or how long the protection might last, but are conducting research to answer those questions.

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