Plan on getting a COVID-19 test? Five Things You Should Know Before Being Tested
As more of us consider getting tested for Covid-19 to protect our loved ones, coworkers and friends from harm, it's critical to understand how Covid-19 tests work and precisely what they do.
Here is some essential information that you should know before you take a Covid-19 test.
Two Kinds of Covid-19 Tests, Diagnostic & Antibody
The first thing to know is that there are two types of tests available for the coronavirus: diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Sometimes these tests are also referred to as "molecular" and "serological."
If you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 you will probably go through a diagnostic or swab test. This test identifies the presence of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19. It's performed using a long swab to collect tiny pieces of the virus from the back of your nose.
A positive result indicates that some viral material is present inside your nose. If you get a negative result that means the virus was not found in your system.
Diagnostic tests can sometimes be incorrect, especially in the early stages of the infection, because small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 can go undetected.
What is a Covid-19 Antibody Test?
Antibody tests are actual blood tests designed to detect specific molecules that appear in our body when it's fighting the coronavirus.
When a virus-like Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2 invades our body, the immune system launches an attack within hours. At first, our body sends out a general army of immune fighters, but eventually, it starts to release Y shaped molecules called antibodies that target the virus more specifically.
These antibodies will bind to a specific part of the virus called a "spike" and antibody tests are designed to detect whether these molecules exist in our blood.
Instead of asking a patient whether they have the symptoms of the virus, antibody tests allow your doctor to ask your immune system if there's an the infection inside your body.
It's important to know that antibody tests are NOT used for diagnosis because it can take several days to up to a few weeks before antibodies appear in our blood.
Depending on which antibodies are present in our blood at the time testing, doctors are better able to assess the stage of the Covid-19 infection.
Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies indicate more recent exposure to Covid-19, and higher levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) indicate later-stage infection.
Antibody Test Help Determine Stage of Infection
Antibody tests can determine whether someone who had the virus is ready to rejoin the workforce. These tests also play a critical role in helping healthcare providers develop coronavirus therapies such as convalescent plasma.
Convalescent plasma therapy is being used to transfuse antibodies found in a Covid-19 survivor's plasma into the bloodstream of a critically ill patient to help fight the deadly infection.
While researchers are still trying to conclude its effectiveness, for family members of people with Covid-19, convalescent plasma is usually a last hope to save a loved one.
That's why if you think you may have had Covid-19, but aren't sure- it's critical that you take an antibody test.
There's a massive shortage of plasma with Covid-19 antibodies- and through a simple blood donation you might be able to give enough plasma to save more than a few lives.
Common Covid-19 Antibody Tests
The most common kinds of antibody tests include SARS-CoV-2 — lateral flow immunoassays and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
The lateral flow tests usually, a finger prick is used to obtain a blood sample. If the test changes color, it indicates that the patient has tested positive for the Covid-19 antibodies.
ELISA tests are more complicated and take longer because they have to be performed in labs by technicians. But results from ELISA tests are pretty quick too and generally take about two to three hours.
Keep in mind that regardless of which antibody test you get, they are trying to identify the same thing: molecules which belong to a specific part of the virus called a spike protein.
At-Home Tests Are FDA Approved, But Not Fully Vetted.
The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has approved at-home tests for the coronavirus, but these tests still need to be vetted. Many at-home tests have been rushed to market, without being tested over time.
And remember, everyone has a different reason for being tested.
Some might be sick with active symptoms in which case acting fast, and accuracy become critical. Others may want to know if they had the virus and donate plasma to others.
That's why its critical to talk with your doctors first and get advice based on your individual health.
Getting Tested Is Free
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates that testing is free for everyone. Most states have posted testing locations on local public health websites. The easiest way to find a testing site is to Google "Covid-19 testing sites near me."
We hope you found this article informative and helpful. Stay healthy and well hydrated.
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