Antibody testing and preparing for lockdown relaxation
There is an ongoing debate regarding the usefulness, or not, of the antibody test for COVID 19 – that is, the test to show whether you have been infected by the virus (around 14 days or more the date of sample collection).
We have discussed the main points of debate in the previous article – is the test reliable enough, and indeed is it actually useful to know whether there are any antibodies present?
We are confident that we are offering the right test, indeed probably the best available at the time of writing – a laboratory test with 100% sensitivity reported in the detection of IgG antibodies 14 days or more following onset of illness (which means no-one who has had a response will slip through the net). With a specificity of 99.63%, we can also be very confident too that a positive test really is positive for Covid-19 alone – this high score tells us that very few positive results are falsely recognising another virus as Covid-19.
Now that we can be confident that the test result, with very few exceptions, is reliable – what can we infer from the result? If Covid-19 behaves like all other Coronaviruses, having IgG antibody in the blood means it is highly likely that there will be at least short-term immunity to re-infection. Accepting this likelihood (while acknowledging that we cannot yet be absolutely certain that there will be some sort of immunity), it may be useful for individuals and organisations to know their or their employees’ immune status. It will take the guesswork out of a number of situations, for example:
Can I visit my older relatives to make deliveries, and perhaps spend some time with them? If IgG antibody positive you will know that there is no current infection, and therefore you will not be replicating viruses in your nasal passages. Sensible hygiene measures would still need to be undertaken of course, in case of recent direct contact with the virus which can remain viable for possibly a few days on some surfaces. Thorough hand washing should be sufficient to destroy virus particles picked up this way.
From a workforce planning perspective, of course, knowing your employees status could be very helpful indeed – organisations of all sizes, from small shops to manufacturing plants, will be able to plan how best to deploy staff, perhaps allowing them to shelter non-immune individuals behind PPE, and freeing up IgG positive staff to take on more exposed or customer-facing roles. It will also help guide individuals and organisations to be pragmatic about isolation – potentially reducing the need for repeated two-week isolations for symptomatic individuals.
Of course, we must all be mindful that we should follow whatever Government guidelines regarding individual and corporate behaviour are in place at any moment in time. But armed with the knowledge of Covid-19 IgG status we shall all be in a better position to behave intelligently and appropriately – to protect those still vulnerable - as and when society and businesses return to a new normality.
Click here to view our COVID-19 Home Coronavirus Test Kits