Coronavirus antibody test: What it is and what it shows | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

What’s the purpose of a coronavirus antibody test?

A coronavirus antibody test can show whether you were infected in the past and determine if you are eligible to donate potentially lifesaving plasma that can pass the virus-fighting antibodies to a critically ill COVID-19 patient.

A coronavirus antibody test can show whether you were infected in the past and determine if you are eligible to donate potentially lifesaving plasma that can pass the virus-fighting antibodies to a critically ill COVID-19 patient.

The test is done by a blood draw and is different from the nasal swab test, which looks for an active infection with the coronavirus/COVID-19. Your Norton Healthcare primary care provider can perform the simple blood test that checks for antibodies that your body produced if you had COVID-19. The antibody test is performed at your primary care provider’s office as part of a routine office visit and is covered by most insurance plans.

“It really does offer an insight into your previous exposures — especially those patients who may have had an illness, thought it was coronavirus-related and didn’t get tested,” said Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, division president, provider operations, and system chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare. “We’ll be able to look back to see if they did have that illness.”

Those antibodies your body produced could help save the lives of current and future patients. The antibodies are in the recovered patient’s plasma. Donated plasma is then administered to the sick patient.

Norton Healthcare has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to conduct the plasma transfusion as a clinical trial and has conducted more than 80 transfusions.

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Convalescent Plasma Donation

If you had COVID-19 symptoms after March 4, 2020, and were exposed to someone who tested positive, you can volunteer as a plasma donor. Call (502) 446-2688, or fill out a questionnaire in your MyNortonChart account: Choose the “Health” icon. Under “Medical Tools,” choose Questionnaires, then “COVID Plasma Donor.”

If you have a loved one who is ill with COVID-19 and you’d like to explore participation in the convalescent plasma trial, discuss the possibility with their physician.

Interested in getting an antibody test? Schedule an appointment with your Norton Community Medical Associates primary care provider.

How does the coronavirus antibody test work?

The test detects coronavirus infection indirectly by measuring whether the patient’s immune system had responded to the virus by producing a specific antibody. The IgG antibodies typically are detectible in the blood 14 days or more from the beginning of an infection.

At this time, there is no data that shows the IgG antibodies signal any long-term immunity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that recurrence of COVID-19 appears to be uncommon, and more study is needed.

“In the short term, there are a lot of unknowns. We don’t know if those antibodies are effective long term,” Dr. Hester said.

How does convalescent plasma treatment work?

Convalescent plasma has been used over the past several years to treat severe illnesses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza and Ebola virus. While the how and why are not completely understood, convalescent plasma from fully-recovered COVID-19 patients potentially can reverse life-threatening symptoms.

“Researchers discovered from fighting Ebola, another public health emergency that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa between 2013 and early 2016, that convalescent plasma seemed to help,” said Don A. Stevens, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute who’s leading Norton Healthcare’s part in the trial. “Antibodies in the blood of recovered patients appeared to aid in killing the virus, but there’s a lot more to learn about the efficacy.”

As an experimental treatment, the convalescent plasma procedure is currently available only to patients who are critically ill from the disease. Most of the local recipients of convalescent plasma have cleared the virus and are recovering, according to Dr. Stevens.


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COVID-19 Testing

Drive-thru testing is available by appointment at Norton Respiratory Illness Testing Center.

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