Testing is quickly becoming an important concern amid the coronavirus pandemic. Diagnostic testing is required to determine if one is infected with the COVID-19 virus. Other tests including the serological test determines if the person has antibodies that prove immunity to the virus.
What are antibodies?
Antibodies are special protein molecules that are produced by the immune system as a response to antigens. Antigens are substances that stimulate the body’s antibody production.
In other words, the body makes antibodies to fight germs and other harmful substances. This process is also part of the body’s immune response. Specifically, IgG (immunoglobulin G) and IgM (immunoglobulin M) are two key antibodies that help ward off infectious diseases.
As per the research carried out by Amir Jafarey and Natasha Anwar for an article published in Dawn Newspaper’s Prism, the antibodies take weeks to develop after the body has already contracted the virus. However, at the end of the fourth, all patients have developed the immunoglobins.
The research reports that an antibody test, used with high sensitivity to these antibodies, was carried out on asymptomatic individuals in Karachi.
The results showed that the patients who had caught the virus, depite not showing symptoms, had produced an antibody response. The report was deemed ungeneralisable because it was not a population-based study.
How accurate is the antibody test in explaining immunity of the individual?
The article explained that those with a positive antibody test could have been infected with the virus before. Due to the fluctuation of the two immunoglobins, they can likely be detected in the body. However, those with a weak immunity may not elicit a response, and might test negative though having contracted the virus already.
Along with these concerns, a positive antibody test also does not mean that the person with antibodies are not capable of spreading the virus – they most certainly can. The writers of the article further state that due to less scientific progress in this area, there is uncertainty as to whether the person is completely safe from infection despite developing antibodies.
Determining accurate prevalence and fatality rates across the population of Pakistan will be more important among other tests currently carried out right now, according to the researchers. The process of reaching a form of immunity testing affordable and feasible to every strata of society will take time and effort.