Experts Say COVID-19 Antibody Tests Are Not Necessary

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The Rising Nepal

Kathmandu, Sep. 10: Experts have recommended not to go for anti-body testing to assess the immunity level against Coronavirus infection.

Experts said that COVID-19 antibody tests can help identify people who may have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus or have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. These antibody tests are aimed at finding evidence of the body’s immune response to a past infection with the virus, but they cannot measure if a person having positive anti-body is actually or totally protected from Coronavirus infection.

According to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, at this time, researchers do not know whether the presence of antibodies means that you are immune to COVID-19; or if you are immune, how long it will last.

“Therefore, antibody testing is not currently recommended to the public.” He said, “One scenario in which we can utilize antibody testing is when someone has COVID-19 infection or when one is asymptomatic, to know if they are exposed to the virus and has developed antibodies or not.” 

He further said that in people who have received a COVID-19 vaccination, antibody testing is not recommended to determine whether you are immune or protected from COVID-19 as well.

Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, the coordinator of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, said that there is still considerable uncertainty about what these levels of detectable anti-bodies mean when it comes to protection.

“Mainly, people develop anti-bodies in case of infection with Coronavirus or with a vaccine so, the anti-body testing shows the past exposure to the virus as well as to know if the person is vaccinated” he added.

According to him, antibody tests only give one view into the body’s collection of defences against the coronavirus. Anti-bodies are immune systems that neutralize the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2.

“But, it is yet to know how many sets of anti-bodies is needed to neutralize the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the antibody test does offer the degree of certainty if one is protected from coronavirus.” He added. The experts have suggested that vaccinated people should not worry about their antibody levels. And for unvaccinated people, public health experts said relying on antibodies from the virus won’t have as much protection as a vaccine.

According to Dr Richa Nepal, Consultant Physician at the Department of Internal Medicine of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, the main objective of anti-body testing is to give the idea if people have been exposed to coronavirus or have received the vaccination.

“You could have SARS-CoV-2 and not know it. Not everyone who gets it has symptoms. Antibody tests can give health officials a better idea of how common the virus is.” She said, “However, the positive antibody test does not mean that one has developed immunity that provides full protection from virus, nor negative antibody test means that one cannot recover from SARS-CoV-2.”

She said that those who have immunosuppressants, then, can do anti-body testing to know about their immune condition anti-body against COVID-19. This will help people to know the condition of the body, however, people in normal health conditions are not recommended for it.

According to Rajesh Kumar Gupta, Information Officer at the NPHL One can get anti-bodies at National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), at Rs. 1000 and the test results can be obtained in 24 hours. Similarly, the antibodies testing can be done in every health facility as well.

All the doctors commonly agreed to not go for another vaccination dose if the anti-body is low as no research has been conducted in the regard nor is authorized by the government.