Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Apparently I'm not the only person asking about the proper role of antibody tests in determining safety protocols during this current phase of COVID-19 infections. This morning on NPR's Morning Edition program, a strongly expressed piece discounted the value of current antibody tests. At the heart of the story was the following:
[Washington University School of Medicine Immunologist] Ali Ellebedy says that having detectable antibodies from a blood test six months after vaccination "only means that your immune system mounted a successful response then and that you have immune memory."
While scientists have generated a "ton of data" on which antibodies are best at neutralizing the virus, Ellebedy says, the available antibody tests are not designed to specifically pick up whether you have enough of these protective antibodies, especially in the face of evolving variants.
And don't forget the immune system is more than just antibodies, so even with low detectable levels in your blood, you're not defenseless. "Antibody tests — it's really probing just one part of your immune system," says Elitza Theel, who directs the Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic.
The NPR piece poses the question of whether a person can "learn anything" from antibody testing. The piece says "Yes, as long as you don't expect it to give you a straightforward answer for how well-protected you are from catching the virus."
For more, I recommend reading or listening (3 minutes) to the NPR segment entitled "Antibody Tests Should Not Be Your Go-To For Checking COVID Immunity." The segment suggests that "the identity of a blood test that can eventually give consumers a reliable indication of their immunity is not far-fetched." Okay. But as I suggest in my previous post on this topic, are there communities available for antibody testing to further the identification of "correlates of protection" that aren't being tapped currently? Could college and university communities and long-term care communities become part of the development of a reliable tool?