What are COVID antibodies — and am I immune if I have them?
COVID immunity has been discussed in the media again and again, as have antibodies. But it’s a complex, daunting topic. And we all have questions.
What are COVID antibodies? Are you immune to the virus if you have them? And what of those people who have contracted COVID-19 twice?
In short: no test can say whether you are immune to coronavirus. Even if an antibody test detects coronavirus antibodies in your body, you could still catch the infection.
What are COVID antibodies?
The body’s immune system creates special protein molecules, known as antibodies, in response to invading antigens.
Various types of antigens exist, but we’re talking about foreign antigens with the potential to cause diseases. Harmful antigens from a virus or bacteria may enter the body through inhalation, surface transfer, or via some other means of contamination.
In the case of COVID-19, the virus can be spread through respiratory droplets when an infected individual sneezes, coughs, breathes, or speaks within six feet of other people. Touching a surface with the virus on it before touching the eyes, nose, or mouth poses a risk too.
Antibodies disable antigens by attaching to them via unique sites at their tips, to (hopefully) remove infections. This, in simple terms, is how vaccines work. By injecting a small amount of a disease into the body, this triggers an antibody reaction and, ultimately, an “immune response”.
What is an antibody test?
An antibody test looks for COVID antibodies to determine if you’re likely to have had coronavirus previously. These tests are usually administered on individuals who make a full recovery from the virus. A blood sample will be taken and analysed to determine if they have developed antibodies against COVID-19.
Some individuals can lack antibodies despite having had the virus before testing, resulting in a false negative. It’s much less common for antibody tests to deliver false positives. That is if the test finds antibodies within the person’s blood sample, it’s highly likely that they have contracted and recovered from coronavirus before.
Antibody tests should be done at least 14 days after symptoms first appear — that’s when accuracy is usually its highest.
Are you immune to COVID-19 if you test positive for COVID antibodies?
Some experts say yes, others say no. This is obviously a crucial matter, and arguments on both sides of the debate should be considered carefully.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has conducted extensive reviews of evidence on antibody responses to the virus. It found that “most of these studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the virus”.
This means that, yes, those individuals should have some immunity to COVID-19. After all, that’s how other viruses work, too. One UK study revealed that COVID antibodies can remain for a few months, potentially protecting against reinfection for a limited period.
And while COVID reinfections have been reported, the CDC reports that this phenomenon is rare.
This is all positive news: it indicates some immunity to COVID-19 may occur thanks to antibodies remaining after the infection is destroyed.
But — and this is a big but — there is still no definitive answer.
- If you have experienced coronavirus symptoms before, immunity is not guaranteed
- If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or had a positive PCR test, immunity is not guaranteed
- If your antibody test came back positive, immunity is not guaranteed
You could catch COVID-19 again. And any protection which may exist could last only a few months.
It’s vital to keep this in mind if you or anyone in your household has been infected. Please do not assume that you or they will be safe from reinfection.
Taking a COVID antibody test
Taking an antibody test for COVID-19 indicates whether you have had the virus previously. Though, as mentioned above, it’s not 100% accurate.
An antibody test can give some much-needed reassurance, for returning to work or visiting family and friends. But it cannot be used as a certification of health for international travel.
And even if you test positive for COVID antibodies, you should continue to take the precautions that have become such a core part of everyday life.
- Keeping a minimum of two metres (typically, three steps) from anyone outside your household or support bubble.
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are unavailable, using hand sanitiser gel to clean your hands.
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or even your sleeve when you need to cough or sneeze — avoid using your hand.
- Disposing of used tissues straight away and washing your hands immediately.
- Covering your mouth and nose with a mask when within close range of people indoors, where you may struggle to keep your distance (e.g. in a shop or on a train).
- Not touching your mouth, nose, or eyes without first cleaning your hands, especially if you’ve touched surfaces in public areas.
These behaviours are now second-nature to most of us, but it’s crucial to stay up to date with the latest recommendations, too. Make every effort to protect yourself and others from infection.
COVID Antibody Tests from Corona Test Centre
Corona Test Centre offers private testing for COVID-19 in multiple locations across London (and one in Manchester). We provide a selection of tests administered by healthcare professionals, including our Antibody Test.
This involves taking a blood sample and testing it to detect IgM & IgG antibodies, which will indicate whether you’ve had coronavirus in the past. Our Antibody Test is 98% accurate at determining whether you have COVID antibodies and an immunity response.
Your results are delivered by 10pm the same day — guaranteed. These secure, verifiable results will be sent to you via email, in digital, PDF, and Apple/Android wallet formats. We analyse samples every day of the week to maintain maximum efficiency.