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Can I get an antibody test for COVID-19?

The Government recently pinned the blame of coronavirus test shortages on the general public, insisting queues and inexplicable redirections have come following a surge in unnecessary demand. As such, they have now asked people only get tests if they have symptoms and promised a new monthly test target of 500,000. But asymptomatic people may still find out whether or not they have had the virus.

Can you get an antibody test for COVID-19?

Where health officials reserve coronavirus tests for those who have had symptoms or close contact with potential carriers, everyone else may get an antibody test.

Antibody tests search for antibodies, remnants of the disease left over when people’s immune systems have fought off COVID-19.

The bodily response configures the antibodies – otherwise known as immunoglobulins – ward off this disease specifically, and they remain once they have flushed out the virus.

The blood tests which identify them are not widely available yet, at least not on the NHS.

The service will only test NHS and care staff, as well as some hospital and care patients.

They said the tests would “help show who has had the virus and how it is spreading in the UK”.

People can get tests elsewhere, with several private services offering to do so, but, the NHS has warned against getting home kits, as their safety and reliability is not yet confirmed.

Those who receive an antibody test will only find out whether or not they have had the virus before.

They cannot say whether someone is immune or whether or not they can still spread the virus.

The tests may not always indicate whether or not someone has built up immunity either, as not everyone who has contracted the disease develops them.

Even those who do may lose them after some time, according to recent research.

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Back in July, researchers from King’s College London found coronavirus antibodies decrease over time.

Those who recover may lose their immunity in months, suggesting they can become reinfected with the disease as they might with the common cold.

The longitudinal study of patients from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust found the antibodies peaked three weeks after onset of symptoms after which they declined.

Antibody tests found 60 percent of people had a “potent” antibody level at this point, but only 17 percent three months later.

Prof Jonathan Heeney, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, said the study “puts another nail in the coffin of the dangerous concept of herd immunity”, and added the public should nix their “cavalier” attitude towards COVID-19.

He said: “I cannot underscore how important it is that the public understands that getting infected by this virus is not a good thing.

“Some of the public, especially the youth, have become somewhat cavalier about getting infected, thinking that they would contribute to herd immunity.

“Not only will they place themselves at risk, and others, by getting infected, and losing immunity, they may even put themselves at greater risk of more severe lung disease if they get infected again in the years to come.”

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