Even If You Could Get An Antibody Test, You'd Still Have To Stay Home

May 14, 2020

Credit John McNeill / WMUK

People in Kalamazoo who would like to get tested for previous COVID-19 infection shouldn’t hold their breath. Reliable antibody tests are not widely available yet. Even if they were, doctors say they’re not the get-out-of-jail-free card that some people might expect.

A blood test for COVID-19 antibodies can show that someone who never got sick or has recovered had the disease. That’s led to hope that the they could help people get out of their homes and back to work. But Bronson physician Aaron Lane-Davies says a positive antibody test does not prove immunity.

“Some researchers have shown there is immunity. Some researchers have raised concerns about that. So we do not yet know whether or not previous exposure generates immunity and if so for how long,” he said.

Ascension Borgess Hospital physician David Davenport agreed.  

The test “doesn’t really rule out that you have an active infection,” he added. "We don’t know for certain yet until we do a lot of human studies.”

“A lot of people think they can get the test and if it’s positive they can go back to work or they can stop social distancing and all that, and that’s unfortunately not the case. We just don’t know that yet,” he said.

Davenport and Lane-Davies say antibody tests are an important tool for researchers monitoring the pandemic: They can help show how many people in an area have had COVID-19. And the tests can help physicians find plasma donors for people still fighting SARS-CoV-2.

Bronson Healthcare says it’s working on securing a supply of antibody tests from the Swiss drug maker Roche. The test is accurate enough to be of use even in a population with relatively low exposure, Lane-Davies said.