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Elitza Theel, Ph.D., weighs in on the value of COVID-19 antibody testing

September 22, 2021

Elitza Theel, Ph.D.

As the surge in cases of COVID-19 fueled the by the delta variant continues across the U.S., and infections among vaccinated people receive widespread media attention, many Americans are wondering if the vaccination they received months ago will continue to protect them from the virus. Some are turning to antibody tests to find an answer.

But COVID-19 antibody tests are not recommended as a reliable tool for measuring immunity. In a recent story on NPR, a panel of experts explained that, while antibody testing can check for certain antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2, they don’t provide the full picture of an individual’s level of immunity to COVID-19.

Elitza Theel, Ph.D., who directs Mayo Clinic’s Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory, was part of that discussion. She noted that although the tests can detect antibodies to COVID-19, a high number doesn’t necessarily ensure protection, and a low number doesn’t automatically point to vulnerability. Immunity encompasses far more than antibodies alone. “Antibody tests — it's really probing just one part of your immune system,” Dr. Theel says.

The story also explored the variability in the tests, as well as what can really be learned by antibody test results.

Read the full story here.

Tracy Will

Tracy Will is a senior marketing specialist at Mayo Clinic Laboratories where she covers innovation, specialty testing, and advances in laboratory medicine. Tracy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2016.