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Frequently Asked Questions about Antibody Testing

May 20, 2020

What is antibody testing?

Antibodies are produced by the body to fight infection. The COVID-19 antibody test, also called a serology test, looks for two types of antibodies in your blood.

If I have these antibodies, am I immune to COVID-19?

No, antibody testing can’t tell you if you are immune to COVID-19. Since this is a new virus, it is unknown to what extent a person who is exposed to, or has been ill with COVID-19, is immune to future exposures to the virus.

Can antibody testing tell me if I’ve been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19?

If a person is found to have antibodies to a specific virus, then it is likely they may have been exposed in the past.

Can an antibody test diagnose me with COVID-19?

No, a diagnosis of COVID-19 requires testing on a sample taken from the respiratory tract. The antibody test cannot tell someone if they are actively infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can antibody testing help identify potential plasma donors?

An experimental treatment for COVID-19 uses plasma (the liquid portion of blood) donated from people who have recovered from COVID-19. The treatment, known as convalescent plasma, may help people with COVID-19 get better faster. Antibody testing can help to identify potential donors. Learn more about convalescent plasma donation at the New York Blood Center >

Where can I get an antibody test?

Antibody testing capabilities are expanding in New Jersey. Speak with your primary care provider for more information.

How is antibody testing helpful for scientists?

Antibody testing can be used to help find out how widespread exposures are and how the virus spreads in a population. In addition, when paired with other scientific information, antibody testing can help researchers understand who might be immune to the disease.

What are the limitations to antibody testing?

The New Jersey Department of Health advises that there are limitations to having the antibody test and this test might not be right for everyone. Having COVID-19 antibodies does not necessarily mean that a person is immune. False positives and false negatives may also occur with this test.

For example, a person may have been exposed to a seasonal variety of coronavirus (which circulates yearly in the United States and causes mild cold symptoms) that could possibly cause a false positive COVID-19 antibody test. Additionally, there are many different antibody tests in use, and they vary in how well they work.

Information provided by the New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey Communicable Disease Service, State of New Jersey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.