While testing is still in short supply, there has been an increase in getting more test kits to the community. The swabs are what most people are used to seeing on the news (or have experienced first-hand). However, we are now seeing blood tests, finger pokes and discussions of antibodies. Let’s take a minute to break down each test.
The Nasopharyngeal swab: This swab is used to gather a collection of secretions from the back of the throat, behind your nasal passages. It is inserted in the nostril until it reaches the back of the throat and then rotated gently while being removed. It is done by a health care practitioner. What this will tell you is whether you have the virus present right now. You would be considered contagious whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.
The IGM test: IgM are antibodies that develop early on in an infection, roughly 5-7 days after picking up the virus or bacteria.
The IGG test: IGGs are antibodies that are formed later in the stage of infection and can sometimes be used to gauge a person’s immunity to a disease. This often, (not always) means that when faced with the same disease, a person will not become ill.
What it all means for covid-19 is this:
The nasal swab is currently the gold standard for identifying infected individuals, but will only tell you if you actively have the virus.
The IgM test can tell you if you have recently been exposed and can mean you are still currently ill or have had it in the recent past or have an asymptomatic infection. It is less definitive for whether you can still spread the virus.
The IgG means you’ve had it and gotten rid of it. Whether this means you now have immunity remains uncertain. Early trials are showing that it likely does offer some protection but how much and for how long is still unknown.
- Dr. Mike & Brooke