How The Antibody Test Differs From The Coronavirus Test

There's a crucial distinction between the two.

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From furlough to self isolation, there’s a lot that’s become the “new normal” over the last six months. The pandemic has meant getting to grips with changing social distancing measures to ensure that you’re mindful of your health, as well as the safety of people around you. The government has increased testing for COVID-19 and if you’re showing symptoms you can go to a drive through testing centre. But what’s an antibody test? As of Aug. 23, 15,177,265 people had been tested for COVID-19, 325,642 of which tested positive. That's doesn't include all the people who will have had COVID-19 as not everyone has been tested.

Talk about testing has amped up over the last couple of months. However, antibody tests differ from normal tests and could give you an insight into your health if you think you’ve already had COVID-19.

What’s an antibody test?

A COVID-19 antibody test has been created to try and establish when someone has already had the virus. It's a blood test and it could establish if you’ve had the illness by detecting COVID-19 antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are created by your immune system to help fight infections.

The NHS highlights that while an antibody test may be able to tell you if you’ve had COVID-19 it doesn’t mean that you’re immune from the virus and can’t pass it on to other people. Also it may not work for everyone as not everyone who has suffered with COVID-19 will have antibodies.

How’s it different from a COVID-19 test?

A COVID-19 test works to establish whether you currently have the virus. If you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, such as a high temperature, cough, or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, then you should get tested. You can either go to a testing centre or do an at home kit. It involves swabbing the inside of your nose and back of your throat. You then seal the cotton bud in a sample tube and send it off to be tested.

While a COVID-19 test detects if you’re suffering with COVID-19 currently, an antibody test checks if you’ve got antibodies in your system that suggest you had the virus at some point.

Which is better?

You can’t measure whether the antibody or COVID-19 is better because they do different things. If you think you’re currently suffering with the virus then you should access a test. An antibody test may give you some insight whether you've had coronavirus in the past.

How to get an antibody test in the UK

Currently antibody tests aren’t widely available in the UK. While you can go to a testing centre for test to see if you currently have coronavirus, or order one to do at home it isn’t advisable that you conduct an antibody test at home. You can, however, pay for a test to be done privately. Tests cost around £65-£100 at private clinics depending on where you go.

The NHS website details that NHS and care staff are currently being offered antibody tests. Similarly, hospitals and care homes are offering some patients and residents tests in order to track the spread of the virus. It’s not clear when or if antibody tests will be made widely available to the public.