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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Covid-19 and immunity: When is an antibody test required?

Not all patients would mount an adequate immune response to the vaccination. The antibody test, therefore, is done to see the number of antibodies in patients "who are at a higher risk"

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
June 3, 2021 8:00:08 pm
when is antibody testing done, antibodies, what are antibodies, Covid-19 and immune system, indian express newsAntibodies -- also called 'immunoglobulins' -- are protective proteins produced by a person's immune system in response to antigens. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

With people learning new things about health and immunity in the pandemic, there is also novelty in the questions asked to doctors. Mostly, there is interest in the vaccine and what it does, and if a person who has made recovery from Covid infection still needs the jab.

Doctors confirm that while antibodies are present in the system, there is a need to get the vaccine doses still, for better protection.

But, what are antibodies, and how will a person know if they have them still? Will a quick test confirm their presence and indemnify a person?

Dr Chandrashekhar T, chief intensivist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi explains that antibodies — also called ‘immunoglobulins’ — are “protective proteins produced by a person’s immune system” in response to antigens, which are essentially foreign substances found during a viral infection.

“An antibody test measures the presence of antibodies in the blood. The major clinical utility of antibody tests is to assess the people exposed to the virus in the recent past and developed a potential immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection,” he tells indianexpress.com.

Dr Chandrashekhar, however, cautions that antibody testing is not routinely recommended. “It is only recommended for patients who are on long-term steroids, methotrexate, are HIV-positive, have end-stage renal disease, have chronic liver disease, and more.”

He adds that not all these patients would mount an adequate immune response to the vaccination. The antibody test, therefore, is done to see the number of antibodies in patients “who are at a higher risk”. In healthy people, naturally, antibody tests are not needed and not recommended.

Cost-effectiveness

These tests are also not cost-effective, says the doctor. “Their availability is a concern at this stage. We also do not have the amount of vaccination to give an additional third dose to the people with low antibodies. Even after the vaccination, taking all the necessary precautions and being careful will be beneficial,” he concludes.

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