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Antibody Testing

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Antibody tests, also called titer tests, are often required as part of pre-employment screening, as well as periodically or annually for employees. Antibody testing ensures that co-workers and the public with whom they interact are safe. Antibody blood tests, such as COVID-19 titers, are one component of occupational health screenings. Antibody test results will tell you if someone is immune to certain common diseases. If a titer test indicates that the person is not immune to a certain illness, they may be required to get an immunization through their place of employment if it’s available.

Antibody Tests for Employees

Antibodies are proteins that form part of the body’s immune system. Their function is to help fight off bacteria and viruses that can otherwise cause disease. An Antibody Titer Test is a blood test that detects antibody presence. Employers can request their staff to undergo titer testing to determine if they have immunity to common infectious diseases. A worker who wishes to know if they have antibodies to a certain disease, either due to suspected exposure or before receiving a vaccination, may also want to get titer test.

A titer test can also detect antibodies that may have developed following an infection. A titer blood test can also determine if someone has retained immunity to a disease years after they have been immunized.

While most people have been vaccinated against common diseases such as Mumps, Measles, and Rubella, the protective antibodies may have faded over time. The titer blood test checks to see if it’s enough to provide protection. Also, if someone loses their immunization record or if it is outdated or unreliable, an antibody titer test clearly shows which immunizations are current and which vaccinations they need.

Antibody tests that we offer include:

These ensure that an employee is protected. If they aren’t, the employer can require that they get a vaccine before starting or continuing employment.

Titer Testing by State

Titer testing requirements may vary depending on location and industry. Select your state from the list below for state-specific titer testing information.

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COVID-19 Antibody Testing

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that having antibodies to the virus that is known to cause COVID-19 may provide protection from reinfection, though at this time, scientists are still studying how much a person is protected and for how long that protection lasts. If it is determined that antibodies do confer immunity to coronavirus, it will be similar to how antibodies provide immunity to other infectious diseases like mumps, measles, and varicella (chicken pox).

Antibody vs. Antigen Blood Test

While an antibody indicates prior infection with a disease, antigen tests can show if someone is actively fighting a current infection. An antigen is a foreign substance that causes the body’s immune system to produce antibodies which can fight off that infection. Antigen tests are used to detect if a potentially infectious germ is present. Rapid antigen tests are used to test for influenza, malaria, and streptococcal sore throat. The P24 antigen test is used to diagnose HIV. Antigen tests are also used to detect hepatitis.

As with antibody tests, antigen tests can be administered in facilities where co-workers, clients or patients are vulnerable to catching contagious illnesses.

What is the Benefit of an Antibody Blood Test?

A virus antibody test can indicate the presence of antibodies, which signifies that your immune system can protect you from a serious disease. For employers, if a person’s antibody lab tests come back with positive results, they can work around others without risk of infections.

What Industries Need Antibody Testing for Employees?

There are certain industries where antibody tests are especially important, such as healthcare and education, in addition to military personnel, international travelers and inmates as well as staff at correctional institutions.

Healthcare

Antibody testing is frequently required for employees in the healthcare industry, in the interest of keeping vulnerable populations such as the sick and elderly protected against the most common infectious diseases. Workplaces and professions include hospitals, nursing homes, medical clinics, and home care providers. Vendors that service the facility and regularly interact with staff must also be tested for antibodies and vaccinated, if needed.

Education and Other Industries

In the field of education, vaccinations for chickenpox are often mandatory for teachers, students, and childcare workers. Other key industries where there are large populations and close interactions include military branches, inmates and workers in correctional facilities and international travelers. The varicella titer test checks for the varicella-zoster virus (which causes chickenpox and shingles), and it can be used to determine which personnel are immune and those that should receive a vaccine.

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), employees who handle blood or other materials in their workplace which may be infectious have a higher risk of Hepatitis B virus exposure. In these facilities, employers must offer vaccines to their employees. They may require workers to take titer blood tests for Hepatitis B to determine if a vaccine is needed.

Medical and first-aid personnel aren’t the only workers who should receive antibody tests and vaccinations. Antibody blood tests are also frequently mandated for morticians, emergency responders, and laundry attendants that work in commercial laundries in healthcare facilities or public safety institutions.

Antibody Tests and COVID-19

There is currently a lot of discussion about titer testing for workers, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees are now returning to on-site work, and the EEOC has determined coronavirus to be “a direct threat,” which gives employers the legal right to test employees for COVID-19 before they can return to the workplace. This includes administering COVID-19 antibody tests — specifically, the lgG COVID-19 antibody test.

It is important to know that lgG COVID-19 antibody tests will not indicate if a person is currently ill or contagious, and it should not be used for that purpose. It can take up to three weeks for a person infected with the coronavirus to develop IgG antibodies. This antibody test only determines if the person had COVID-19 in the past. Researchers expect that IgG antibodies will provide coronavirus immunity, but it is not currently known how long the immunity lasts.

With many people now receiving the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and other COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC has updated its guidelines regarding antibody tests for COVID-19. It now states that since these vaccines use the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to generate a protective immune response, a positive antibody test for the spike protein IgM/IgG may indicate previous infection or vaccination. Experts are currently researching this to determine the length of immunity one can expect and how COVID-19 vaccinations affect the results of titer tests. The length of protection varies for each disease and each individual.

What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

An antibody test should not be given to anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, so it is helpful to know what they are. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, shortness of breath, cough, body aches, headache, fatigue and loss of smell or taste.

Who Does Antibody Testing?

Employers normally use private companies for antibody tests, and these companies will send the specimens they collect to private, certified laboratories. The CDC has developed its own serologic (antibody) test. This blood test is used to help evaluate the efficacy of antibody tests that were developed by private labs.

Antibody Testing and Public Health

For individuals, an antibody titer test looks for the presence of antibodies in the blood sample. Your body’s immune response creates antibody proteins which help you fight infections. If you were exposed to COVID-19, the antibody test shows if you’ve developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. It will not tell you if you are currently infected.

In the larger population, antibody testing gives researchers a sense of how many people have been exposed to and infected with COVID-19. It may also indicate the number of people who have been vaccinated. If antibodies create immunity to COVID-19, this can help inform public health officials as to whether the population has reached herd immunity. When a large enough percentage of a population has become immune to COVID-19, they protect those who are not immune.

Citations

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“Why You Should Titer Test Your Employees.” NMS Health, 29 April 2019, https://www.nmshealth.com/blog/titer-test-employees/
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Payne, Jacqueline. “Antibody and Antigen Tests.” Patient, 14 November 2018, https://patient.info/allergies-blood-immune/antibody-and-antigen-tests
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“Hepatitis virus panel.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003558.htm
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“Hepatitis B Vaccination Protection.” OSHA Fact Sheet, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_BloodborneFacts/bbfact05.pdf
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“Test for Past Infection.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html
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“Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 21 March 2020, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pandemic-preparedness-workplace-and-americans-disabilities-act
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“Immunoglobulins Blood Test.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/immunoglobulins-blood-test/
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“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Serology Testing.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/serology-testing.html
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“Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html
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“Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/testing-overview.html
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“Symptoms of COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html