During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term ‘antibodies’ became a little more common, but what does it mean, exactly?
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) describes antibodies as the proteins made by the immune system to fight infections like viruses and may help to ward off future occurrences by those same infections.
When the body fights off a virus, it develops specialized antibodies that are intended to stave off that exact virus. Those antibodies contain the playbook for destroying and ridding the body of the virus. As we grow older, we develop more and more antibodies that work to defend our bodies against regular virus attacks. When you feel a cold coming on, or minor flu-like symptoms, your body may actually be in the process of fending off the virus. If the body builds enough antibodies with the right attack plans, they could effectively protect the body from developing the diseases related to the virus, or greatly reduce the symptoms of those diseases.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2. Individuals who have a positive COVID-19 antibody test can confirm at least one of two conclusions: They have fought against COVID-19 previously, or they have been administered a COVID-19 vaccination.
There are a lot of questions surrounding antibodies, like how long do antibodies against covid19 take to develop in the body? How long after infection can I get a covid19 antibody test? How long does immunity last after getting vaccinated? Let’s tackle some of the most frequently-asked-questions about antibodies when it comes to COVID-19 testing.
Antibodies can be stored in the body for months to years after an infection. This is a good thing! We need antibodies to protect us from future infection. This is why individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 are often considered immune to future infections.
To defend against a virus, the body needs to produce antibodies that are designed to destroy and remove that specific virus. In order for that to happen, the body needs to meet the virus and understand how it works. Then, it develops the antibodies to stave off future virus contamination. The FDA says that antibodies can take days or weeks to develop in the body following exposure to a SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection.
Because the antibody response can take 1-3 weeks to develop functioning antibodies, it’s best to wait at least a couple weeks after infection to test for antibodies.
Generally speaking, vaccines can bolster immunity for at least six months. The biggest vaccine manufacturers —Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna—report that their vaccines are still going strong after six months, with 91.3% and 94% effectiveness respectively. With the advent of new variations of COVID-19, these manufacturers are continuing their studies of how developed vaccinations work against new variants.
Vaccines are produced to battle specific viruses and their components. As viruses grow and develop variations, it becomes more difficult to protect against new variations with outdated vaccinations. If one variant contains additional components that an existing vaccination did not account for, it is possible for a vaccinated person to become infected with COVID-19 and experience symptoms related to the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) shares that there are many studies still underway to better understand the covid immunity after infection. However, several studies have shown that most individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop antibodies specific to the virus, enabling the body to more effectively fight off new infections. The extent of the antibody response is often determined by severity of the infection. More testing is needed to better understand how long the antibodies last.
While antibody tests can tell you if you’ve ever had the SARS-CoV-2 virus or a vaccine against it in your body, they cannot tell you if you have the vaccine currently. When you need to know if you are COVID-19 free or not for school, work, or travel, trust BioCollections Worldwide’s PCR COVID-19 testing for fast, reliable results.
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