Back to blog

Returning to Work: Q&A on the Role of Antibody Testing

coronaviruscovid-19Telehealthantibody testinglabworkHealth & Wellness • 4 min read • May 8, 2020 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo

The path out of the COVID-19 pandemic is anything but clear. Governments and businesses – including MeMD – are working around the clock to bring innovations to the masses, helping to ensure we can return to our normal lives as swiftly and safely as possible.

While the precise path to normalcy is debatable, we do know which tools will help us progress in the right direction. One of them is antibody testing.

MeMD’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo, breaks down the most common questions about antibody testing, explaining what it is, how it works, and the role it will play in getting Americans back on track.

What is antibody testing?

We naturally produce antibodies in response to an infection. These antibodies allow our systems to fight back and recover. Testing for a specific antibody – like the COVID-19 antibody – will tell individuals whether or not they have had a recent or prior COVID-19 infection. Keep in mind that antibody testing is not used to diagnose patients who actively have symptoms. However, COVID-19 antibody tests can tell if a person was infected with COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to the test.

How is antibody testing playing a role in helping Americans return to work?

It’s believed that antibody testing will indicate whether individuals have some immunity to COVID-19 in the future. The medical community is hard at work to confirm how long antibodies persist after infection and if the antibodies provide protective immunity.

Studies of other seasonal coronaviruses that cause a common cold have indicated that people with antibodies are protected for about a year. Once research confirms that antibodies to COVID-19 do offer some type of immunity to the infection, it may bring peace of mind to the individuals tested, their loved ones, and their coworkers.

And while research may not yet confirm immunity, getting tested now will help give patients needed information when research catches up in the near future.

How is the COVID-19 antibody test administered?

There are many types of antibody tests. These tests are not new. Antibody tests detect antibodies in a blood sample. The blood sample can be obtained by a finger prick or a blood draw, which is usually conducted at a local lab. Lab results are available within three to five days.

Does MeMD offer antibody testing? 

Yes. MeMD providers can order antibody tests with our nationally recognized lab partners.

  • To request an order for an antibody lab test, people can request a visit online, 24/7. They will be connected with a healthcare provider who will assess symptoms and recommend a treatment plan, if necessary.
  • If an antibody test is deemed appropriate, the provider will instruct the patient on how the test will be administered through MeMD’s lab partners. Most importantly, the MeMD provider will help the patient understand what their results mean.
  • Results from the test will be available to the patient from the MeMD online dashboard within three to five days.
  • If patients would like to review the results with a healthcare provider, they can request a follow-up visit to assess the findings and receive additional care.

Who should get tested?

Antibody tests are great for patients who had COVID-19 symptoms but did not qualify for a diagnostic test earlier this year. Indeed, due to diagnostic testing supply shortages, many people with COVID-19-related symptoms were unable to get tests because they hadn’t traveled to a high-risk area or couldn’t confirm that they had been in contact with someone who had a positive diagnosis.

If a patient did receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, a positive antibody test will allow them to donate plasma to help current COVID-19 patients. Plasma is being evaluated as a treatment for patients with serious COVID-19 infections. To donate plasma, visit the American Red Cross.

All other patients who are curious if they have antibodies can get tested now in order to have their results when research can confirm whether they will have protection from future COVID-19 infections. At that time, having test results will help patients make more informed decisions about returning to work and other activities.

Any patient who is currently symptomatic for potential COVID-19 infection, including a fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath, should not be antibody tested. Candidates for antibody blood testing should be at least two weeks removed from experiencing symptoms.

What happens if I test positive? 

Depending on the type of COVID-19 antibody test a patient takes, if the patient has a positive result, they may need a second test to confirm they actually have COVID-19 antibodies because some tests can give false positive results. The need for a second test is best determined by the patient and healthcare provider.

What happens if I test negative? 

A single, negative COVID-19 test means the patient does NOT have COVID-19 antibodies, and therefore, no antibody protection from future COVID-19 infection. A second antibody test is not required if the first antibody test was negative.

A single positive antibody test followed by a negative antibody test is also consistent with the patient NOT having COVID-19 antibodies. Learn more about negative test results.

If you are interested in learning more about antibody testing and would like to speak to a medical professional about getting a prescription for a test, you can request a visit with a MeMD provider 24/7

MeMD’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo, answers some of the most common questions about antibody testing, explaining what it is, how it works and the role it will play in helping Americans return to work.

Reach the World. Giving Made Easy with Impact.

Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo