According to NBC News' latest report, antibody tests that identify if a person is immune or not to the coronavirus may take months. However, the report stated that it doesn't mean the tests can't provide valuable public health information in the meantime. Currently, antibody tests cannot identify if an individual is immune to COVID-19, but the tests can show who is vulnerable to the virus.
NBC News explained that antibody tests can detect whether a person's immune system has developed antibodies needed to fight a particular infection.
Individuals with positive antibody tests show that they developed antibodies by having contracted and conquered a virus at some point.
Meanwhile, a negative test result can mean that the individual has not yet contracted a virus, so the immune system didn't need to create antibodies to fight it. The report stated that the results of antibody tests provide a picture of who remains vulnerable to the coronavirus.
"There still are people that this virus can infect. It's important we remain vigilant," said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of emerging diseases and zoonoses unit at the World Health Organization (WHO) during a media briefing on Monday, April 27.
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Study revealed people with positive antibody tests can still be infected with coronavirus
According to NBC News, the WHO caused a bit of a stir among the public who were looking to antibody tests to prove their immunity so they can return to work or regular social activity.
The post of WHO on Twitter said that there is not enough evidence to show that those individuals who have recovered from the coronavirus are not vulnerable from reinfection. WHO deleted the tweet and clarified on Monday, April 27, what the post meant.
"Just because there's no evidence in this area doesn't mean that there's no immunity. It just means that the studies haven't been done yet," explained Dr. Kerkhove on the report. Other experts agreed with the explanation provided by WHO.
"It's very important to not assume that a positive antibody test means that you're definitely immune and that you couldn't become infected or that you couldn't spread the infection to somebody else," said Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, head of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, reiterated that people who have positive antibody results may have been infected last month in March. He also said that it is possible that by October, those antibodies could decline thus making the person vulnerable to COVID-19.
While results of positive COVID-19 antibody test remain uncertain, a negative test may provide public health officials a better understanding of which populations remain at risk to the novel coronavirus.