Fact or Fiction: Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected

VIDEO: Fact or Fiction: Antibody testing

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A few weeks ago, Live 5 News offered employees a free COVID-19 or antibody test.

Many of us participated in the on-site clinic. Patients were required to wear masks and were seen one at a time by the lab.

“When I got the call from HR saying I tested positive, I was in shock. I was really at a loss of words where it came from,” said Executive Producer Chaunte’ Turner opted for the blood test to check for antibodies.

Back in July, she did feel congested and sick one day. “I slept on the couch all day and kept taking my temperature. At one point in the afternoon, my temp hit 99.4. I was like- oh gosh. Please no, please no.”

But hours later, her temperature was back down, and the symptoms faded that week. It felt more like allergies or a mild sinus infection.

Now her positive antibody test results have opened the door to more questions.

"How long is my body protected from the virus? And is it really even protected?" Turner questioned. "Is there a chance I could still get it from someone else?"

"Yes, you can get re-infected by this coronavirus because there are several sub-strains of it," said Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Robert Ball.

He said current antibody tests for COVID-19 are "fine," but not perfect.

The CDC says on its website, "Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last."

Dr. Ball said,A positive Antibody test does not infer long-term immunity. It is not an immunity passport.”

The CDC also says there's a chance a positive result means you have antibodies from an infection in the same family of coronaviruses like the common cold, not necessarily COVID-19.

"The immunity research is still ongoing," said Allie Van Dyke with The Blood Connection.

We spoke to her at a community blood drive Thursday at which blood donors were also offered free antibody testing.

Van Dyke said one good thing about positive antibodies is you can help local COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.

If you’ve recovered from COVID 19 or tested positive for antibodies, you can donate convalescent plasma. That can be done at our Center. Hospitals have been using that as a treatment,” she explained. “As cases here in the Lowcountry have gone up, that demand for convalescent plasma has gone up.”

She said one plasma donation can help four sick COVID patients.

Turner said, "This is a real virus. And people's lives are being impacted by it. I'm blessed I was able to deal with it the way my body dealt with it."

SC DHEC tells us positive antibody tests like Turner's are not added to the county of positive COVID cases in their daily numbers.

The state health department is tracking and reporting antibody testing on its website.

As of Wednesday, they reported 56,730 antibody tests.

7.3% of the 4,168 tests were positive for antibodies.

COVID-19 testing in SC
COVID-19 testing in SC (Source: SCDHEC)

The FDA reports, "Many antibody tests are currently in development or available for use to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. However, not all antibody tests that are being marketed to the public have been evaluated and authorized by the FDA."

For more information about serology and antibody testing, visit the World Health Organization website to see results of recent studies.

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