COVID-19 Antibody Test
NHS England have rolled out Coronavirus (COVID-19) antibody testing to patients and NHS staff. The antibody testing programme will help us understand how the disease spreads. This will work alongside PCR testing which confirms whether or not someone currently has the virus.
About antibody test
Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if you have previously had the virus. The test works by taking a blood sample and testing for the presence of antibodies to see if you have developed an immune response to the virus. This test is different to the virus swab (PCR) test which detects if you currently have the virus. There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have had the virus develop long-lasting immunity which would prevent them from getting the virus again. Therefore, the value of antibody tests is currently limited to answering the question of whether someone has had the virus or not, and providing data and a greater understanding on the spread of the virus.
Information from antibody test
A positive antibody test will tell you whether you’ve previously had the virus that causes COVID-19 and that your body has produced an immune response. There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have been proven to have had the virus and to have produced antibodies are immune. If you receive a positive antibody result it does not mean that you’re immune, or that you cannot pass on the virus to others. It also does not mean that you can ignore social distancing measures. Understanding of the virus will grow as new scientific evidence and studies emerge. COVID-19 is a new disease, and our understanding of the body’s immune response to it is limited. We do not know, for example, how long an antibody response lasts, whether the antibodies produced are effective in neutralising the virus, or whether having antibodies means a person cannot transmit the virus to others. In time, as the science develops and our understanding of the disease increases, we will have answers to these questions.
If you have a positive result
This means you have developed antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19. This indicates that you have had the virus, even if you did not have symptoms.COVID-19 is a new disease, and we are still learning how the immune system reacts to it. We do not yet know whether having antibodies provides protection against becoming ill with COVID-19 again. It is therefore important to stay alert even though your antibody test is positive. You should continue to practise social distancing measures and follow Government guidelines. You must also do everything you can, such as frequently washing your hands, to prevent the spread of the virus.
If you have a negative result
This suggests you have not had the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the test is not guaranteed to identify everyone who has had the virus. Some people who have been infected may still have a negative test. Everyone, whether their antibody test is positive or negative, should continue to practise social distancing measures and follow Government guidelines. You must also do everything you can, such as frequently washing your hands, to prevent the spread of the virus.