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COVID-19 Update

 The new 15-minute Rapid Antibody Testing for COVID-19 is now available in Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast.

To schedule an appointment send a text message to (772)332-9975 with your contact information (Name and email address).

What you need to know about testing for COVID-19 virus.

Testing for the Covid-19 virus has continued to be a challenge around the country. 

There is a new rapid diagnostic test (Rapid Antibody Testing) that requires a drop of blood that looks at the immune reaction to the presence of the virus in the person. Please be aware that this test is NOT FDA approved as of yet. Patients need to have a full understanding of the meaning of these tests before deciding on proceeding any further.

There are nuances in interpreting the results of the tests and actions to take once the results are known. 

The easiest way to understand this is through the following analogy.

Imagine that a brand new enemy who was never known to exist before (COVID-19 virus) attacks and breaks through into the King’s castle (the Human body).  The enemy multiplies within the castle while the King’s defenses, caught by surprise, creates the first line of soldiers specifically meant to fight this enemy. These first line soldiers carry a shield labelled IgM (the antibody). The King also commissions creating an army of reserve soldiers labelled IgG (another kind of antibody).  

The role of the IgM antibody is to annihilate this specific enemy immediately within the castle. 

The role of IgG is to make sure that any further attacks later can be overcome. 

There are two ways of identifying the enemy within the castle. 

The first is to look for the Enemy (COVID-19), the Virus itself: The problem is the poor availability of this test throughout the country. Throat swabs and nasal swabs are done and sent away to a lab for the identification of the enemy and the results were taking days to weeks.  The good news is that newer technologies are coming in that can help us identify the virus within a few hours but the technology is not available widely yet.

The second way of identifying the presence of the Enemy (COVID-19) is to identify the IgM and IgG antibodies, (The Rapid Antibody Test) indirectly indicating the presence of the Enemy. This test is more widely available and called the Antibody method of testing for the Corona virus infection. It takes 15 minutes and a single drop of blood.  This is the test that is being offered at our office now. 

How do you interpret the results of the Antibody test?

Scenario A:  The blood drop shows No IgM and No IgG: This indicates that the person has no infection OR the infection could be in the early stages. Given a few days the early infection may evolve to a point where there is more production of IgM that can now be identified in the blood sample. If these folks have an early infection, they will be infective to others. If they do not have an infection, indicates that they continue to be at risk to get infected. 

Scenario B: The blood drop shows only IgM, with or without IgG antibodies: This indicates an active infection whether there are symptoms or not. Confirmation through a PCR test looking for the actual virus is recommended to confirm the infection. They are infectious and need to be isolated. They must seek medical attention if the clinical situation warrants it. They need to contact their physicians for guidance and appropriate medical care. 

Scenario C: The blood drop shows only IgG and NO IgM: This indicates a past infection whether it was clinically diagnosed or not. They can be assumed that they are likely “immune to further infection”. Data on this is still not clear. Those who have recovered from the COVID 19 infection are donating their plasma which contain these Antibodies and infused into the bodies of those fighting an active infection to help them fight the infection. It is like sending in soldiers from a neighboring castle to fight the castle under siege. 

Where is the Antibody Test NOT recommended?

The Rapid Antibody Test does NOT give accurate and useful results in those whose immune system is suppressed or weakened due to some other illness such as cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, steroid use and immune therapies. There is an inadequate immune response by the body under these conditions. These patients need to undergo the test that looks for the virus directly rather than undergo the Antibody test. 

Why does it cost to get the test done with us when you can get the test done for free elsewhere?

It is true that the Health Department is able to do the testing for free.  I urge you to explore any of such options before deciding to schedule with us. As a small medical practice there is a cost to buying the test kits and performing the tests. In a perfect world, I would offer this test for free.  

This article is meant to be educational and to help folks understand the testing procedures and what it means so that appropriate action may be taken. Please follow guidelines from the CDC, state and local authorities as well as your personal physician and stay healthy.  

It is recommended that you take measures to boost your immune system through any means possible so your body can be ready to fight not only the COVID-19 but any other infection that may be lurking around us.

Hope this helps and please stay safe.

Ramesh Kumar, MD

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