Live Mic: Doctor explains antibody testing for COVID-19

Apr 20, 2020, 6:02 PM | Updated: 7:42 pm
doctor antibody testing...
Tube tests stands in a holder as media visit the Microbiology Laboratory of the University Hospital, CHUV, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday, March 23, 2020. (Denis Balibouse/Keystone via AP, Pool)
(Denis Balibouse/Keystone via AP, Pool)

SALT LAKE CITY — There are many conversations surrounding the topic of antibody testing for COVID-19.

But, what exactly is antibody testing?

Your body makes antibodies when in fights infections like COVID-19. So, a blood test could identify if you’ve ever been infected with coronavirus and also tell health care workers how widespread the infection is.

Dr. Patricia Slev, the immunology section chief at ARUP and associate professor of pathology at the University of Utah, joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to explain the next step in antibody testing.

“We’re all familiar with the swab test where you get a Q-tip inserted up your nose, and let’s you know if you have COVID-19, but this antibody testing is a whole different ball of wax. Could you explain that for us, please?” Lee asked.

“Antibody testing involves the traditional blood draw,” Slev said. “Swab tests or molecular tests involve viral genetic material and determine whether you’re currently infected with the virus.

“Antibody test detects antibodies, which are proteins that develop in an individual as they are trying to fight the disease,” Slev explained.

Developing a COVID-19 test

Slev said the antibody test ARUP is now developing for IgG antibodies, which are more likely to show up later after you’ve recovered from coronavirus.

An IgG or Immunoglobulin G is the most common antibody. IgG is in the blood and other body fluids and protects against bacterial and viral infections.

“If the IgG antibody is detected in an individual, it suggests that individual has been exposed to COVID-19 infection,” she said.

“And who no longer has that or has immunity to it? What does a positive detection of this test tell us about that individual?” Lee asked.

“To date, we do not know if the presence of antibody equals immunity. So I want to make that very clear. We do not have definitive proof to date that the presence of the antibody equals immunity,” Slev noted.

“We also don’t know the duration of the immunity. So if we detect IgG, we don’t know how long it will be present. So individuals who have symptoms and who you have to diagnose for COVID-19 infection, molecular testing is the recommended test,” Slev said.


“How do you determine if somebody has built up an immunity to any virus?” Lee asked.

“As we become familiar with a virus and its infection patterns, disease course and the type of responses that an individual develops…then we can follow these antibody kinetics to see how long these antibodies are present.

“If a person is positive for these antibodies, does it prevent reinfection or provide protective immunity? But that takes time, and so those studies are ongoing for COVID-19,” Slev said.

“Is it more common than not for an individual to have a positive antibody test and then be immune from that virus?” Lee questioned.

“It is possible and that is a common finding, but again each infectious disease or each pathogen or virus is different,” she said. “So just because it’s true for one infection, doesn’t mean it’s true for another infection.”

“Of what use is this information?” Lee asked.

“One application of this information, for example, is to perform this testing on health-care workers who have been on the front lines to see if they have been exposed to the virus,” Slev said.

“Another application could be surveillance…because right now we do not know the true rate of infection. Some individuals, for example, are asymptomatic,” Slev said.

“So using the test …to determine the true rate of infection in the community, regional or national levels is one application of the test that will give us very important information, particularly since we suspect some individuals may be asymptomatic.”

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app

Today’s Top Stories


A crowd gathers in front of the Utah State Capitol on Friday, June 24, 2022, to protest the U.S. Su...
Becky Bruce

Different abortion law now in effect in Utah

A different abortion law is now in effect in Utah, and it bans abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. However, there are several exceptions to this law.
1 day ago
Rising temperatures across the country are putting the homeless at risk of heat-related death. Many...
Waverly Golden, Aimee Cobabe

Heat waves bring concerns for heat-related illnesses and the homeless population

Record-breaking heat waves have caused an abundance of heat-related deaths among the homeless.
1 day ago
IV bags hang in a room. Intermountain healthcare conducted a study on IV fluid....
Samantha Herrera

Intermountain Healthcare study finds “better” IV fluid treatment

Researchers with Intermountain Healthcare conducted a 15-month-long study to learn the effects of using an alternative IV fluid for patients.
1 day ago
thousands turned out to demonstrate their opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade...
Curt Gresseth

Lawmaker seeks to remove felony statute from Utah’s abortion trigger law

A Democratic lawmaker in Utah said she has filed a bill to remove the felony-punishment aspect of Utah's trigger law that went into effect when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday.
2 days ago
Protesters hold signs and chant at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 24, 2022, as ...
Simone Seikaly

Temporary stay issued for Utah’s trigger law

In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of Utah names multiple defendants and says Utah's abortion trigger law violates the state constitution.
2 days ago
Clear the air challenge...
Amie Schaeffer

The 13th Annual Clear the Air Challenge kicks off July 1

Since 2009, the Clear the Air Challenge has focused on cutting vehicle emissions that impact Utah's air quality.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Live Mic: Doctor explains antibody testing for COVID-19