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Antibody Testing: What it’s good for — and what it’s not

Local News

Hospitals in the state are ramping up their COVID-19 antibody testing.

The knowledge gained from those tests is invaluable — information such as how prevalent is COVID-19? Who, exactly, develops antibodies and how long do those antibodies last? Will those antibodies prevent you from getting the coronavirus again?

We spoke with a local infectious disease specialist who says antibody testing is good for research, but the one thing it’s not good for, at this point, is a personal sense of security.

“There are a lot of things being worked out in terms of how this virus works, how it acts with the immune system, how different people can have varying responses to it,” explained Noe Mateo, Infectious Disease Specialist.

But the complete story on COVID-19 isn’t in yet. We’re learning new things every day, and when it comes to antibody testing, there’s one thing the doctor is positive of: 

“There is no guarantee. We can’t say on the basis of a positive or negative test if someone is truly immune or not,” said Mateo. “We can’t say for sure that they can’t get re-infected.”

Mateo says new information suggests the antibodies can wear off and may only last in the body for a couple of months, if not weeks.

And he says that’s dangerous if you’re basing life decisions on a positive antibody test.

“About the only thing that we can hang our hats on, reliably conclude, from an antibody test is that if they have enough of the antibodies, they can potentially become a convalescent plasma donor. That’s it,” Mateo emphasized.

He also says be aware that there can be false positives in the antibodies testing, which can give false hope.

That’s in part why he warns the only thing really known with COVID-19 is there are still so many unknowns.

Have you had any patients get COVID twice?

“We had one patient suspected of having COVID twice, but that’s suspected not documented,” said Mateo.

Because coronavirus antibody research is still relatively new, useful, conclusive answers won’t be forthcoming for months, if not years.

Mateo says people are better served to focus on the here and now, on the preventative measures that can help reduce your exposure to COVID-19: Washing your hands, wearing a mask, social distancing and using protective equipment.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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