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Antibody testing will determine if you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past

The COVID-19 antibody test is being used to determine whether a patient has been exposed to the virus in the past.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — There are many questions surrounding the COVID-19 antibody test. The test is being used to determine whether a patient has been exposed to the virus in the past.

Before having the test done herself, THV11’s Laura Monteverdi sat down with her doctor talk about the benefits of the test and get answers to frequently asked questions.

“We kind of predicted that it would just be a mad rush we have really not seen that,” said Dr. Kent Covert with Little Rock Family Practice Clinic.

In two weeks, about 70 people have made their way through the doors of Little Rock Family Practice Clinic to get an antibody test. It’s a number much lower than physician Dr. Kent Covert expected, and he has been just as surprised with the results so far.

“We actually have not had a positive antibody test at our clinic yet which is kind of surprising,” said Dr. Covert.

The difference between the antibody test and the COVID-19 test is that the antibody test will tell you if you have been exposed the virus in the past, not if you currently have it.

“The antibody test, if there is a silver lining, it is a more patient friendly. It’s just a blood draw, nothing more invasive than that” said Dr. Covert.

Dr. Covert said the turnaround time for the results is about a day or two, but he urges you to be wary of places that promise faster results.

“The ones that they are kind of encouraging us to stay away from, at least according to the Arkansas Department of Health, are the ones that are point of care testing. So if somebody says we can get you an antibody test result in 5 or 10 minutes, those are almost certainly not FDA approved,” said Dr. Covert.

Dr. Covert said for some, having the test done is simply peace of mind. However, there is research being done to see if patients with antibodies can donate their plasma to help critically ill patients.

"Some patients have mounted an early antibody response, some are delayed, and some people may not have an antibody response,” explained Dr. Covert. “So that is why the value of this test is dubious and kind of up in the air because we really are flying blind right now until we have more research.”

In theory, if you were “exposed” to the virus, your body should generate an immune response and that immune response (antibodies) is what they are looking for with the antibody test, Dr. Covert said.

He said if you were exposed and got sick (fever, cough, body aches, etc.) then your body “should” generate those antibodies.

“Even if you were exposed and did not get sick, then your body “should” still generate those antibodies,” said Dr. Covert.

Generally speaking, Dr. Covert said the test cannot tell the difference between a patient who was exposed and got sick vs. a patient who was exposed, but never developed any symptoms. He said the test is simply trying to identify those patients who were exposed enough that their immune system generated an antibody response.

A popular question is if you had COVID-19, can you get it again? Dr. Covert said right now, there's no straight answer.

“Generally speaking you would say hopefully not, but I don't think anyone is confident enough to say absolutely not,” said Dr. Covert.

Dr Covert said to keep in mind, just as with any test, there is a chance of false negatives and false positives.

As far as pricing, it can vary. Typically they are around $50, but check with your doctor and insurance company first.

You can watch the full interview with Dr. Covert here:

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