SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing has been touted as the holy grail – the get-out-of-COVID-jail free card. Because there are many asymptomatic carriers, some are understandably hoping: “if I’ve already had it and was asymptomatic, I could be immune!” and then can indiscriminately resume their pre-pandemic lifestyles. I want that too! But bad news, friends – antibody testing is not the key to that door.
To put it simply, antibodies are Y shaped proteins launched forth by your immune system which latch onto an antigen (in this case, the SARS-CoV-2 virus) to render it inert and/or destroy it. Pretty cool, right? The problem is, SARS-CoV-2 comes from a family of viruses called the coronaviruses, of which there are almost 100. The antibody test does not discern between the types of coronaviruses, so it won’t tell you if you’ve had the common cold (which doesn’t kill you), or SARS-CoV-2 (which very well could). So, you could’ve had the sniffles last year and your Antibody test will be positive. You’ll be led to believe you are immune to COVID-19, but you’re actually just immune to the virus that caused your common cold.
So you could go around traveling and loving life again… going out to bars, sharing drinks, not wearing a mask, not maintain a 6 ft distance… and you would still be susceptible to contracting the virus, and developing the frighteningly lethal infection that is COVID-19. It just takes seeing one person suffering from COVID-19 to scare you enough to do everything you can from getting it. It’s a terrifying disease.
I know that all this misinformation has created an information quagmire. But try to stick with trusted resources based on science (the FDA has a really good list of approved/not approved tests re: COVID-19), and for the meantime, until we get more and better tests, it’s better to maintain safe practices for yourself. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay 6 ft apart, and for goodness sakes, please wear a mask. In sum, antibody tests are not specific for COVID-19. It will just tell you if you’ve had one of the 100 coronaviruses. So, it gives no answers against your immunity and safety against COVID-19. Thanks for sharing.
Love, Dr. Yang