Beaker

What is the COVID-19 Antibody (Serology) Test?

 

A serology test for IgG antibodies, performed with a small blood draw, will detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, or the likelihood of a previous exposure to the COVID-19 virus or prior COVID-19 infection.

This test is not used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection, and a negative result does not rule out an infection. A positive result may be due to infection with non-COVID-19 strains. It is important to note that this test does not imply or confirm that you have developed an immunity to the COVID-19 virus.

If you would like more information about the antibody (serology) testing that we provide, please take a look at our FAQs below or you can email us.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different tests Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care offers for COVID-19?

We provide both diagnostic (molecular) and serology antibody (IgG) tests for COVID-19 in all of our centers across New York. 

  • A diagnostic test, performed with a nasal swab, will confirm whether or not you have an active infection. This test is used to diagnose current COVID-19 infection. Research shows that you do not need to have any signs of being sick to be infected. You can give the virus to others without knowing it.

  • A serology test (for IgG antibodies), performed with a small blood draw, will detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. In other words, it detects the likelihood of a previous exposure to the COVID-19 virus or prior COVID-19 infection. This test is not used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection, and a negative result does not rule out an infection. A positive result may also be due to past or present infection with non-COVID-19 strains.

    Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care centers process COVID-19 antibody tests using one of six platforms, all authorized by the FDA to use in emergency situations. It is important to note that this test does not imply or confirm in any way that you have developed an immunity to the COVID-19 virus. Experts worldwide continue to research and gain knowledge about this novel virus, but at this point, the test will only indicate if you have had exposure to the virus in the past.

How long does it take to receive test results?

  • The molecular diagnostic test results are typically delivered in 3 days. Our providers personally deliver these results to patients with further information about recommended actions and care, depending on the results.

  • The serology test (IgG) results are typically delivered in 3-5 days. Upon taking the test, a provider will give you information about what the results mean and how to apply the information you learn from them.

Who can get the antibody (IgG) test?

If you have been at risk for exposure, whether you have had symptoms or not, a provider will evaluate you and will recommend testing for your specific situation. Note that it may take approximately 14 days for your body to produce measurable antibodies after exposure. Currently, we can evaluate adults and children 6 months and older for COVID-19 antibody testing in our urgent care centers and can evaluate and test children of all ages in our pediatric urgent care centers in New York.

Can children get the antibody test?

There is no age minimum for the COVID-19 antibody test, however our urgent care centers see patients ages 6-months+, and our pediatric urgent centers in New York can evaluate children of all ages. 

Although children ages 6-months or older may receive the antibody test, the administration of the test is done with a simple blood draw in our center at the time of visit. This may be challenging for young children. If this is something you are interested in, we suggest that you save a spot at one of our pediatric urgent care centers in either East Northport or Hewlett and discuss this with our pediatrician. You may also schedule a pediatric Virtual Visit to consult with a pediatrician over video before coming into the urgent care center. And, of course, you may save a spot for children 6-months+ in any of our urgent care centers to see an experienced provider if that is more convenient for you.

How much do the antibody (serology) tests cost?

Medicaid, Medicare, and many commercial insurance companies are covering costs for (1) a provider evaluation and (2) the administration of a COVID-19 antibody (serology) test during the health crisis. Coverage is changing daily, so we recommend contacting your insurance company to confirm your cost. For those who do not have insurance, we offer an affordable same-day payment option that includes the provider evaluation and the administration of the test.

What safety precautions are you taking to ensure the safety of patients visiting the centers?

Each individual entering our urgent care centers is required to wear a mask, and we are happy to provide a mask if needed.  Our staff uses Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in every COVID-19 patient evaluation, and our exam rooms and equipment are thoroughly sanitized after each visit. Additionally, we make every effort to limit the time you spend in our center – when you arrive, you will see signage on the door asking that you call the team before entering. Our team will provide you with information on your visit and, if there is any delay, we will encourage you to practice social distancing by waiting in your vehicle or outside for your visit.  Our team will call or come and get you when it is time for you to be seen. This way, your only time in our urgent care center is spent in your private exam while receiving care.

If I tested positive for COVID-19, why would I get the antibody test?

The antibody test will tell if your immune system has developed IgG antibodies. This type of antibody (IgG) may produce immunity to viral infections. However, at this time, research has not shown that IgG antibodies produce immunity to COVID-19 or how long they will persist in your body. Research is underway to gain more knowledge about this novel virus.

If I don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, should I get the antibody or COVID-19 test?

If you think you may have been exposed and/or may have COVID-19 symptoms, our providers will determine the right course of action for your situation. If medically appropriate, we can provide testing to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection and can also provide testing to identify likely COVID-19 antibodies.

We recommend the COVID-19 antibody test to anyone who has previously tested positive for COVID-19, had a past history of COVID-19-like symptoms or is asymptomatic but may have had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. However, we recommend waiting at least 14 days after symptom onset to obtain an antibody test.

We also offer antibody testing to asymptomatic healthcare workers, first responders, and essential employees.

Why is the antibody test helpful?

Antibody tests can play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 by helping health care professionals identify individuals who may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 virus and may have developed an immune response. In the future, this may potentially be used to help determine, together with other clinical data, whether these individuals are less susceptible to additional SARS-CoV2 infections.
Antibody test results may also aid in determining who may qualify to donate blood that can be used to manufacture convalescent plasma as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19.

How are antibody tests performed?

Antibody tests are blood tests that are conducted through a simple blood draw. The blood is then sent to a lab to be inspected for the IgG antibodies. IgG antibodies are more likely to be detected approximately two weeks after the onset of symptoms. IgG tests can take up to 5 days to get results back from the lab. 

What does it mean if I have antibodies?

If you have antibodies to a virus, it means you’ve likely been exposed to components of the virus previously, such as an infection. In general, antibodies may be used by the adaptive immune system to help fight off infections, including subsequent exposures to the same infection. For some infections, the presence of antibodies specific to a germ represents effective immunity against it. However, not all antibodies are able to produce immunity, and some antibodies will diminish over time. We don’t yet know the degree, if any, to which people with SARS-CoV2 antibodies are protected from getting COVID-19 in the future. Ongoing research is looking to answer these questions.

Is social distancing needed if I have antibodies?

Yes, it is important to continue social distancing and practice proper hygiene since it’s not certain that having antibodies means that you’re immune to subsequent infection from the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, people can transmit viral particles on their hands, face, other areas of the body, and clothes, even if not infected. This can then increase the risk of infection to others.

Do I have to get sick from the coronavirus to get antibodies?

No. In fact, research suggests there is a significant portion of the population that has antibodies to SARS-CoV2 without ever having become sick. In general, antibody production does require some form of exposure, and some people test positive for COVID-19 itself without showing any symptoms.

How long do COVID-19 antibodies last?

Due to limited data on COVID-19, there currently is no conclusive data on the levels of antibodies developed as result of a COVID-19 infection and the duration of immunity associated with these antibodies, if any. Studies to characterize antibody levels take significant time and require following patients after recovery from infection for weeks to decades. Immunity to infection must be considered at the individual and community levels. Further research is needed to determine the amount of antibodies necessary for protection against future COVID-19 infections.

Does the presence of antibodies indicate that someone cannot be reinfected by COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)?

As discussed above, the presence of antibodies alone does not necessarily translate to immunity against future COVID-19 infections. Protective immunity refers to having an immune response that can clear infections. However, serology (antibody) tests can provide a qualitative (yes/no) or quantitative (amount of titers/cells) readout of antibodies to a specific part of the virus.

What does it mean if I have a negative antibody test result?

If you had a negative antibody test, no COVID-19 antibodies were detected in your body.  This means it is very likely that you have never had SARS-CoV2 exposure or infection.  This can happen if you are tested early in your illness and your body hasn’t had time to produce antibodies to infection.  Research shows that it can take up to two weeks after infection for IgG antibodies to be developed.

  • A negative antibody test together with a negative viral test suggests no infection now or previously.
  • A negative antibody test together with a positive viral test means you have an active SARS-CoV2 infection now (even if you don’t have symptoms). 

What does it mean if I have a positive SARS-CoV2 antibody test result?

If you have a positive antibody test, you probably previously had COVID-19.  There is a chance that this test can give a false positive result because it may detect antibodies to other viruses similar to COVID-19, such as common strains of coronavirus.  We do not know how long antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 exist in your body after infection.  And, we do not know if these antibodies will protect you from getting COVID-19 again.

  • A positive antibody test together with a negative viral test suggests prior infection with COVID-19.
  • A positive antibody test together with a positive viral test means you have COVID-19 now (even if you don’t have symptoms).

Is there any reduced accuracy of the COVID-19 antibody test for children?

Research has not shown any reduced accuracy of the antibody test for children. The administration of the test is done with a simple blood draw in our center at the time of visit. This may be challenging for young children, as blood draws require the patient to be still and can cause mild pain.

Can I still get the COVID-19 antibody test even if I haven’t tested positive for COVID-19?

Yes, if you have been at risk for exposure, whether you have had symptoms or not, a provider will evaluate you and will recommend testing for your specific situation. Note that it may take at least  14 days for your body to produce measurable antibodies after exposure. Currently, we can evaluate adults and children 6 months and older for COVID-19 antibody testing in our urgent care centers and can evaluate and test children of all ages in our pediatric urgent care centers in New York.

What is the accuracy of the antibody test?

No test is 100% accurate. It is important to discuss the results with your healthcare provider to be sure you understand what the results mean and how they affect you and those around you.

Are there health concerns to taking the COVID-19 antibody test?

There are currently no known medical risks related to taking the COVID-19 antibody test, beyond that typical of a blood draw. If you or your family member taking the antibody test has had issues or concerns with blood draws in the past (bruising, bleeding, fainting, etc.), please alert your provider prior to testing so they can recommend the best course of care.

What are the concerns if I test positive with the COVID-19 antibodies?

As antibody testing becomes more utilized across the country, the idea of a false sense of immunity is a growing concern.

It is important to keep in mind that, as of this writing, there is no evidence that suggests the presence of SARS-CoV2 antibodies (positive antibody tests) create immunity to COVID-19. Everyone in our community, regardless of antibody test results, should continue to practice safe social distancing and excellent hand washing, as recommended by the CDC and your state’s department of health. The antibody test should not be used to determine if it is safe to visit people with high health risks. Changing behavior by relaxing safety measures will result in increased risk of community transmission.