COVID-19: Why you may want to get tested for antibodies

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COLORADO SPRINGS — UCHealth is now offering antibody testing for COVID-19. 

According to doctors at UCHealth, antibodies are molecules your body creates to fight off viruses or bacteria.  

“Most people know antibodies because of vaccination. Vaccinations cause your body to develop antibodies to whatever it is you’re being vaccinated for. Whether it the flu, whether it’s pneumonia, tetanus, hepatitis, polio. All of the diseases that have a vaccine have antibodies to those diseases,” said Richard Zane M.D., UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer.

Doctors say the test, available to anyone at UCHealth, can only reveal whether you’ve been exposed to coronavirus.  

“We cannot tell you yet, whether you are immune to COVID-19,” Zane said. 

If you do have antibodies, it doesn’t mean you should change your behavior. 

“You should still physically distance, wear a mask if appropriate, wash your hands meticulously and often,” Zane said. 

But how accurate are the tests? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that many antibody tests aren’t accurate or FDA approved. 

Doctors say all tests are defined by sensitivity and specificity. 

“Sensitivity means how often if the test a true or false negative. So, a hundred percent sensitive test means that you never have a false negative. Specificity means when the test is positive, is it truly positive? So, a hundred-percent specific test means you always have a true positive and you never have a false positive,” 

UCHealth says their test meets FDA standards, is 98-percent sensitive, and 98-percent specific. 

And getting tested means your convalescent plasma could be beneficial to others fighting off coronavirus.

“Convalescent plasma is where take the plasma in the blood that has the highest concentration of antibodies, antibodies to COVID-19. And we can give that to a patient who’s extremely ill with COVID-19 in hopes that those antibodies from your body will then kill the virus in this person’s body,” Zane said. 

UCHealth’s COVID-19 anitbody tests are done by blood draw and cost $100.

Testing for the virus itself with the COVID-19 PCR test, is done through a nasal swab and cost $85. 

 UCHealth says most insurance companies will cover these costs, but recommend people check with their insurance company for details. 

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