Why do we need an antibody test?

Antibody tests give a picture of how widely the virus has spread. The number also gives doctors an indication of the infection fatality rate.

An antibody test is often described as the “have you had it?” test, as it reveals whether a person has had the coronavirus. The results are valuable for a number of reasons. 

At the population level, antibody tests give a picture of how widely the virus has spread. 

More people with antibodies means a lower risk of a second wave of infections when the lockdown is eased, since the antibodies are expected to confer at least some resistance.

The number also sheds light on the lethality of the disease, giving doctors an indication of the infection fatality rate – the risk of death from picking up the virus.

The tests are less helpful on the individual level, but can potentially tell who has been infected and had an immune response and who hasn’t. But tests would need to become much more accurate, and the level of protection better understood, for them to be used for the much-mooted idea of “immunity passports”.

How the antibody test could mean returning to normal life

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