There is a very good chance over the last year or so that you have heard of something called antibody testing. Antibody testing has actually been around for quite some time, but with the COVID -19 pandemic, awareness and interest in testing has greatly increased.
What is Antibody Testing?
A few blog posts back, we discussed the immune system and a few facts about what it does and how it works. We discussed that it is a system composed of many different cells, tissues, and organs that protects the body from infection and disease. It is broken into two types of immunity – innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is the body’s immediate reaction and first line of defense, where adaptive (or acquired) immunity is a more specific, learned reaction.
Antibodies are involved in the adaptive (or acquired) immune response.
Antibodies, termed as immunoglobulins (Ig), are proteins that are produced by B-cells in response to an invader. When harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites, invade the body, they are detected by distinct molecules on their surfaces. These molecules are called antigens. Each antibody is made to bind to a specific antigen and either destroy the invader itself or tag it for other immune responses.
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The body makes five different types of antibodies, each of which has a distinct role. They include:
• IgG: the most abundant antibody making up 70-75% of all antibodies. IgG takes about one to three weeks to develop and is involved in the long-term recognition of antigens. It has the highest neutralization activities of all of the antibody types, destroys its target cells, and detoxifies harmful substances. IgG transfers to the fetus through the placenta and protects infants at the beginning of their lives.
• IgM: makes up 10% of antibodies and is produced first in response to a pathogen.
• IgA: makes up 10-15% of antibodies and is found in serum, nasal mucus, saliva, breastmilk, and intestinal fluid. It protects the GI tract of neonates and is the body’s primary defense against inhaled or ingested pathogens.
• IgE: makes up a very minute amount of the overall amount of antibodies. It is involved in allergic responses and helps protect against parasites.
• IgD: the exact function of IgD is unknown.
Antibody testing is performed via blood draw and can assist in diagnosing autoimmune disorders, allergy, the reason for transfusion reactions, or the reason for organ transplant rejections. It can also assist in detecting previous exposure and/or immunity to an infectious agent such as Epstein Barr Virus, HIV, or even, you guessed it… COVID-19. This is why the topic of antibody testing has been so popular in recent months.
When testing is done to determine exposure and/or immunity to an infectious agent, the blood is drawn and sent to a lab to test for IgM and IgG antibodies to the specific invader. If the antibody test comes back positive, meaning the person does have antibodies, we are able to tell that the person has been exposed to the pathogen and has some immunity to it. IgM antibodies mean the exposure was recent, whereas IgG antibodies mean the exposure was farther in the past and the body has developed longer-term immunity to that pathogen.
Many people have recently been testing for COVID-19 antibodies to determine if they have been exposed to the virus and if they have immunity to it. Antibody testing and the peace that can come with having more information about one’s specific situation can sometimes provide freedom from the fear, isolation, and many other emotions that this pandemic has caused. With that said, it is important to know that antibody testing is not 100% accurate as IgM and IgG antibodies are made from B-cells, but sometimes the body can create other immunity from T-cells. We do not have a test for T-cell immunity at this time, but it is being studied.
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Here at Heart and Soul, we offer antibody testing for a wide range of pathogens. If you are a current patient, we can order antibody testing for you at anytime. If you are not a current patient but would like to have antibody testing and pay cash, we can perform the test for you anytime. If you are not a current patient and would like to file insurance, you will have to establish with us as a patient before we are able to order the test.
Please note: We take insurance for labs, but we do not take them for other services.
If there is anyway we can assist you, we would love to help. Please call the office for additional information or to make an appointment!