So That is Serology
Countries around the globe are working to test masses of people for COVID-19 infections, but the PCR swab testing used only confirms if individuals are currently infected, not if they may have had the disease in the past.
Serological testing is the answer to identify people who were infected and recovered or had the infection with no symptoms at all.
Using blood samples instead of swabs, serological tests look for antibodies against the virus that are present in the blood of someone who was exposed. A medical practitioner will use a needle on adults, or possibly a lancet to pierce the skin for a child, to collect the blood with a quick procedure that is at a tolerable pain level for most people.
The antibodies identified with serology are created by the immune system to fight the antigens found in bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, like coronavirus. Other common illnesses diagnosed by serological tests are measles, rubella, HIV, syphilis, and fungal infections.
Antigens from these diseases enter the body through the nose, mouth, or broken skin where they may be deactivated by antibodies to prevent illness.
When a health practitioner performs a serological test, the types of antibodies present are identified in the blood sample. A serological test that does not show antibodies indicates there is no infection present and the results are considered normal.
When testing reveals antibodies in the blood sample, the results are considered abnormal and indicate there has been an immune system response to a current or previous exposure to a disease. The presence of those antibodies will mean that future exposure to the related antigens will not result in illness.
At times the human body even confuses its own healthy tissue with that of a foreign substance and creates unnecessary antibodies, a chronic condition known as an autoimmune disorder.
After serologic tests are performed, each individual will receive a different type of care, depending on whether or not antibodies were identified, as well as the body’s immune response and its intensity.
Medication may be indicated to help fight infection, or further testing may be ordered if a medical practitioner suspects an infection still exists. Over time, the fungus, parasite, bacteria, or virus in the body will multiply, and the immune system will respond by producing more antibodies, making detecting an infection easier as it gets worse.
Medical experts believe that serological testing could positively impact the global fight against the coronavirus. Identifying people who have overcome the disease would allow them to donate blood with antibodies to patients fighting for their lives in the intensive care units of thousands of hospitals. Front line health care workers identified to have immunity to COVID-19 could care for the sickest patients with less worry about becoming ill or taking the disease home to their Families.
Broad serological testing may also provide answers to how many people have actually been infected by coronavirus so medical experts can better understand what the best next steps will be to fight the disease.
Know What The Results Mean
There’s much talk in the news about testing for COVID, but knowing which test provides what results gives you the ability to better manage your health outcomes.
What is the COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test?
Antibody or AntiGen Testing
A Rapid Qualitative Test that is a Lateral Flow Chromatographic Immunoassay for detection of Antibodies indicative of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Whole Blood, Serum, or Plasma.
Serology Testing is an In Vitro Fingerstick Test
Benefits of Testing
1. Learn if you have the Virus (with or without symptoms) – IgM
2. Learn if you had the Virus – IgG
IgM (“Do I have the Virus?”) vs. IgG Antibodies (“Can I go back to work?”)
IgM is the first antibody to be made by the body to fight a new infection.
IgM Antibodies, which typically display 3-7 days after the Onset of an Infection.
IgG antibodies are generated following maturation of the antibody response, thus they participate predominately in the secondary immune response.
Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR)
The PCR test diagnoses the COVID-19 infection based on viral DNA. The swab test looks like a long Q-tip and draws mucus from the back of the patient’s nasal cavity where it meets the throat (very deep). The swab is then inserted into a vial and is shipped to a laboratory where machines use reagents to extract the viral RNA. The saliva test is similar, except one needs to fill a viral with a specified amount of saliva to achieve levels for accurate results. An enzyme, Reverse Transcriptase, is used to convert the RNA into DNA and the DNA is replicated many times to make it detectable.
Does it Make Sense to Do Both?
Yes! PCR & ANTIBODY TESTING IN TANDEM provides current and historic data, while the combination gives one the most accurate accountability at any moment in time, which may be important verification for social gatherings and travel.
The serological test can tell whether a person has coronavirus antibodies within minutes. The serological test uses just a few drops of blood to determine whether a patient has antibodies to the coronavirus. If so, that suggests the body has built up immunity, suggesting recovery, even if the patient never received a positive diagnosis. (“Can I go back to work?”)
Standard PCR testing involves taking samples of mucus or saliva and running a test in a lab to see if those samples contain the coronavirus’ genomic sequence. The results can take 24 to 48 hours (not counting mail time).