The difference between antibody and antigen COVID-19 tests

“I can say for antibody tests in general they’re less useful.”
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 12:50 PM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - With Fred Meyer announcing that they are now going to be offering a rapid antibody test KMVT wanted to see exactly what that test does and what it means for you.

We spoke to Dr. Matthew Burtelow, an anatomic and clinical Pathologist, with St. Luke’s in Boise to know the difference between this rapid antibody blood test and the rapid swab antigen tests many clinics are using for testing. He explained the antigen test is a swab of the nose that detects active virus to determine if you have COVID-19 and could be infectious. The antibody test is a finger prick blood test that detects antibody that suggest you have had the virus in the past but does not mean you would be immune to COVID if you tested positive.

“I can say for antibody tests in general they’re less useful,” said Burtelow. “I mean someone gets a result, it’s not an immunity passport, and so what do they do with that result? I guess that it provides some insight as to if you were exposed or not. Again there is definitely data out there that re-infection can occur so I just think the antibody test have limited value.”

He went on to say the main use of the antibody tests are for health districts to better understand where the virus has been spreading.

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