Have you wondered if you had the coronavirus but didn’t know it? You’ve felt perfectly fine since you can remember. So, did you have it? And if you did, are you now immune?
To answer those questions and more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun conducting serology tests, also called antibody blood tests, to identify people who unknowingly had the coronavirus and recovered without showing symptoms.
Antibody blood tests look for immune proteins that our bodies make when overcoming a virus, according to Dr. Mary Beth Saunders, medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology with Lee Health.
“These tests could show if our immune system develops coronavirus antibodies,” Dr. Saunders says. “A positive test result means a person was previously infected with COVID-19 (whether they felt sick or not) and developed antibodies to it. The hope is that these people develop an immunity to it, which will greatly lower their risk of getting re-infected. We just don’t know yet. For example, it's still not clear if people gain complete immunity and if they do, how long they remain immune.”
Dr. Saunders clarifies that the antibody blood test is not a diagnostic test to determine if a person currently has the virus.
“The test detects the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself,” she explains.
The New York Times reports that the CDC plans to roll out three separate clinical trials on antibodies to see if they could help treat people who are sick.
According to STAT, the first study, already under way, will focus on people who weren’t diagnosed with COVID-19 in coronavirus hotspots. The other two trials, which the CDC hopes will start this summer, will test people from around the country as well as certain groups like health care workers.
About 80 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases correspond with mild to moderate symptoms such as coughing, fever, and exhaustion. The CDC reports about 25 percent of people with COVID-19 show no symptoms at all.
As a result, these people likely go undiagnosed. Because asymptomatic people can still pass the virus on to others, Dr. Saunders urges the Southwest Florida community to continue practicing safety precautions.