As states across the U.S. implement reopening plans, employers are wondering how to phase back into their normal day-to-day operations safely. COVID-19 cases are still occurring, leaving some employers considering antibody testing as a safe alternative for getting employees back to work and reducing the spread of the virus.
What is Antibody Testing?
An antibody test is a type of test that will check your blood for antibodies, which is what your body creates when it’s trying to fight an infection. These antibodies are how you build an immunity to an infection; the same thing happens when you get a flu shot.
How is it Conducted?
Antibody testing is conducted by a blood test, such as a Dried Blood Spot (DBS) finger stick test or a blood draw. The test can search for two types of antibodies; IgM antibodies and IgG antibodies, depending on the test. An IgM antibody will appear early on in the infection, while IgG antibodies will appear later sometimes between 7-10 days following COVID-19 symptoms. Not all tests search for both IgM and IgG antibodies, but it’s best practice to get a test that will search for both. Some tests can be distributed for employees to take from the comforts of their home if employers do not want to potentially expose employees to the virus by sending them to test at a collection site. (Note: DISA does not do COVID-19 testing at our DISA owned collection sites.)
What’s the Difference Between COVID-19 Tests and Antibody Tests?
Unlike an antibody test, a COVID-19 test is looking for signs that the virus is active within one’s body at the moment. Antibody tests will show signs that the virus was active at some point and that you had it but does not rule out if it’s gone or if you could still be contagious.
If you test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, then it means that you may have already had been infected with the virus. If you test negative for COVID-19 antibodies, then this means that you may not have contracted it before. The research on if COVID-19 antibodies make you immune to contracting the virus again has yet to be confirmed. There is a significant amount of research and studies that the CDC needs to complete before officially stating that immunity can be granted from the presence of antibodies with COVID-19. Research in the past has shown that the presence of antibodies for viruses similar to COVID-19 provides immunity to the person from contracting the virus again, but the scientific community has not yet made that claim for COVID-19.
Someone who has a positive test result for antibodies, but also has symptoms of the virus and feels sick will need to take an additional test to determine if they are currently infected with COVID-19 and proceed with precautions from potentially infecting others. A two-step testing process is recommended to confirm viral status if the antibody test returns positive, but not all tests include supplemental viral testing in addition to the initial antibody testing.
How Does This Help Employers?
Although it has not been determined if you can be immune from the virus when testing positive for antibodies, it does indicate that you could have had the virus and been asymptomatic. As the urge to rebuild our economy grows, the need for mass testing rises, and employers are considering the antibody tests in a way to help workers reenter the workforce with a better understanding of the virus and its transmission.
It's important to note that the CDC has stated that some antibody testing can be inaccurate. There are currently hundreds of tests on the market that employers can choose from, but the majority have been less than effective. Currently, the FDA has only approved two tests for use as antibody testing. It's recommended that you use an FDA approved test and not one of the many other non-FDA approved tests on the market if you utilize antibody testing.
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About DISA Global Solutions
Founded in 1986, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 35 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background screening, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.