Posted by Solv Health, November 25, 2020 (last updated on March 29, 2021)
There have been many questions surrounding COVID-19 since the beginning of the year. Due to the ever-changing information about the virus, there’s been a lot of speculation and talk. In particular, the terms “immunity,” “herd immunity,” and “antibodies” have been widely discussed.
Yet, many people are still unsure about what it all means and how this affects them. We’ve answered some of the most pertinent questions you might have to understand these terms and their implications better.
What are Antibodies?
Exposure of foreign bacteria or germs to your body forces your immune system to generate an antibody to combat it.
But what exactly are antibodies made of? They are proteins produced by plasma cells that run through your blood and mucosa. Your immune system activates them when it detects a virus or other harmful bacteria in your body. Their job is to latch onto the harmful pathogens that make you sick and remove them from your system.
Who Has Them?
Since the immune system forms antibodies as a response mechanism to harmful bacteria in the body, most people are born with them. However, bodies that have autoimmune diseases or a weak immune system find it harder to combat the intrusive bugs.
Moreover, our body builds antibodies through exposure that are specific to foreign bacteria. In the case of a new virus or infection such as COVID, your immune system will typically build an army of antibodies to fight off the antigens over time and after exposure.
There has also been a bit of confusion regarding testing. What testing is available, what their purpose is, and their efficiency? COVID antibody testing could determine previous exposure to the virus.
The first step is to check with your healthcare provider to see if you are eligible for testing.
How It’s Taken?
The antibody test takes a blood sample and checks it for any COVID antibodies. Testing usually occurs after a patient has fully recovered from the virus. Moreover, if your doctor has advised you to take one, it wouldn’t be when you are showing symptoms.
Timing is everything with these tests. It’s important to remember that the results don’t state whether you have the virus at that exact moment. Instead, results show that you have at some point been in contact with it.
It is important to remember that your body doesn’t create antibodies the moment it’s been infected by a virus. It can take between 1-3 weeks for your immune system to kick in.
If you’re tested soon after being infected without any symptoms, it’s unlikely for the test to show up positive. That’s what’s been called a “false negative.” Sometimes, your body doesn’t develop any antibodies, making it even harder to tell if you’ve been exposed to the virus.
Do Antibodies Give You Immunity?
The short answer to this question is no. Having COVID antibodies doesn’t necessarily make you immune to the virus. It does mean that your body has the tools it needs to fight off the bacteria that cause you to become ill.
What Is Immunity?
To be immune is the ability of your body to fight off foreign bacteria in your body. There are three main types of immunity you can have, innate, passive, and acquired.
Innate immunity is what we’re born with and are defense mechanisms that don’t respond to any specific antigens. However, it’s the immune system’s general response to most basic inflammations or infections.
Then we have passive immunity, which is passed on rather than produced. This is common among babies who have acquired their mothers’ antibodies through the placenta or breast milk.
Finally, there’s the case of acquired immunity. Once the body has come into contact with the virus, it can create antigens that specifically target that bacteria. There are two ways by which your body can get this type of immunity through exposure or vaccination.
In particular, when it comes to COVID immunity, some scientific development needs to be made before we can be sure of how it works.
You might’ve overheard the term “head immunity” in conversations or even seen reference to it in the news, but not everyone knows what this refers to.
Herd immunity is created when a larger part of the affected population is immune to the disease, making it difficult to spread the bacteria. This means that even those who would regularly be more susceptible to the virus, while not immune, are unlikely to catch it.
There are two ways to achieve herd immunity in society. In some cases, a large proportion of the population is infected and thereby becomes immune. As such, it reduces the spread of the virus. An example of this implementation has been seen in Sweden, where COVID restrictions have been kept to a minimum.
However, for herd immunity to work, a certain percentage of the population needs to be immune. This will depend entirely on the virus’s pathogen and immunity though exposure isn’t guaranteed to create herd immunity.
The other method through which to achieve herd immunity is through the use of vaccinations. As more people are protected from the virus, it limits the likelihood of spreading it. Researchers worldwide’ goal is to create a COVID vaccine that will protect those affected and reduce the number of cases while it may not eradicate the virus.
How Long Do Antibodies Last?
Unfortunately, there’s no concrete answer to know how long COVID antibodies last. There’s ongoing research to determine their strength and duration after infection.
It will most likely depend on the effects of the virus on your body. Findings have shown some people to have antibodies without having had the virus.
This is why testing for antibodies is essential. The more we know about the antibodies’ strength and duration, the more we know about COVID.
Make sure to check with the latest information on the WHO website to stay up to date. If you’ve presented any symptoms in the past, be sure to consult your doctor. They will be able to tell you if you’re eligible for either antibody or COVID testing. It’s essential to keep an eye on reputable websites as there’s still a lot to learn about the virus.