An antibody test for COVID-19 is now being offered at Boxed Leaf Co. in Fort Payne. Instead of looking in our throats for the coronavirus itself, these tests look for signs in our blood that a person had it and developed antibodies to fight the virus.

Sparrow Health & Performance of Birmingham is offering the tests, which cost $75. Anyone having tests conducted is encouraged to keep their receipt to present to their insurance company for reimbursement.

“The test is done by a simple finger prick with results in 15 minutes by testing your blood for IgG and IgM antibodies,” said Rebecca Rogers, owner of Boxed Leaf Co. and the CEO and clinic director for Sparrow Health & Performance.

These are different from viral nasal swab tests being used to test those who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms and are unsure if they currently have the virus. Boxed Leaf Co. does not offer those tests, which are performed by physicians’ offices after an initial screening to determine if a person meets the criteria, due to rationing because of a shortage of testing kits.

Antibody tests are blood tests done on those who have already contracted or believe they have been exposed to the coronavirus and want to see if their body has built antibodies that fight the virus. Antibodies are the body’s way of remembering how it responded to an infection so it can attack again if exposed to the same pathogen. People with antibodies in their blood have immune cells available to fight a virus, which lowers the risk of reinfection.

One of the things that makes COVID-19 so insidious is that at some cases are believed to be asymptomatic or induce only mild symptoms, so someone can be a carrier and infect others for up to 14 days without having any idea they have the disease. Because of their scalability, serological assays can be used in large-scale, whole-population, testing to assess the overall immune response to the virus and identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

If a large percentage of people in a city or state have these antibodies, there may eventually be enough herd immunity to protect those who haven't contracted the virus.

“If you test positive, it means your body has created an immune response. Knowing you've built this immune response can help get you back to life faster,” Rogers said.

Detection of COVID-19 IgM antibodies tends to indicate a recent exposure to COVID-19, whereas detection of COVID-19 IgG antibodies indicates a later stage of infection. Thus, this combined antibody test could also provide information on the stage of infection.

These antibody tests are not from China, Rogers said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved antibody tests under its Emergency Use Authorization, which means they haven't been thoroughly reviewed by the agency and are not guaranteed to be accurate.

“We promise not to share your results with anyone except you,” Rogers said. “Test data is safe, secure and totally private.”

Sparrow will offer on-site testing for employers that wish to have their employees tested. Home testing is not available. Tests performed at Boxed Leaf at 430 Gault Avenue N in Fort Payne take about 20 minutes and are done by appointment. Rogers said up to four appointments can be booked in one time-slot, but customers will need to book the appointments one at a time so each family member receives a form.

Sparrow Health & Performance offers a variety of services including bioscans, cryoskin toning, IV therapies, NAD+ therapy, neurofeedback, platlet-rich plasma treatments, and stem cell therapy. For more information, visit https://www.sparrowclinic.com/coronavirus.

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