U.S. company Abbott Laboratories has produced an antibody test to detect coronavirus antibodies. 

The antibody test has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a CE Mark (compliance with EU and safety requirements) in Europe. 

Swiss manufacturer Roche has also developed an antibody test for COVID-19, and the UK government has purchased 10 million Abbott and Roche tests. 

How does the Abbott antibody test work?

The test works by identifying antibodies that an infected person has produced. A healthcare worker takes a blood sample and sends it for analysis at a laboratory. The sample is loaded on to specialist Abbott equipment, which can provide between 100 and 200 test results every hour. Lab technicians then share the results with healthcare providers. 

The test is also designed to run on existing equipment already in pathology labs.

How effective is the Abbott test?

If it’s used correctly, the Abbott test has been shown to have a specificity of 99.6% in identifying false positives and 100% sensitivity 14 days after the development of symptoms.

What specific antibodies does the Abbott test detect?

The test helps to identify an antibody called the IgG antibody to coronavirus. The body produces this antibody in the latter stages of infection, and can remain in the body for potentially months or years after a person has recovered from the virus. Detecting these IgG antibodies will help to establish if someone was previously infected with the virus that results in COVID-19.

If I haven’t had any symptoms of coronavirus, is the Abbott antibody test suitable for me?

Yes. You may have had coronavirus and not experienced any symptoms. Even in the absence of symptoms, the body can produce antibodies to the virus. The Abbott test can detect this. 

We don’t know yet how common asymptomatic cases are, but it’s hoped that tests like this one will be able to tell us. 

Can the Abbott antibody test result provide any indication of immunity to the virus?

The Abbott test does not offer any guarantees or indications of immunity to COVID-19. There is currently no consensus on the level and length of immunity that antibodies provide against coronavirus. The antibody test only indicates whether you have had the virus or not. 

Is the Abbott test available to buy?

The Abbott antibody test is not currently available to the public to purchase and conduct themselves (by collecting their own sample). However, medical professionals can buy tests privately and collect samples in a clinical setting. At present, a venous blood sample is required.

When will the Abbott antibody test be available?

It’s not known when the test will be widely available to the public to buy. For healthcare professionals, the test is available to purchase now. 

Priority testing is going to be offered to frontline hospital staff working closely with coronavirus patients, including intensive care staff, people working on coronavirus wards, and doctors and nurses operating in A&E units. Care residents (in cases where testing is requested by doctors) will also be prioritised. 

When will the Abbott test be made available to the general public?

It’s unclear at the minute as to when exactly the test will be made available to the general public. 

Am I able to use the Abbott antibody test to test myself?

No. Neither the Abbott antibody test nor the Roche antibody test is suitable for home testing currently. The blood sample should only be taken by a healthcare professional. 

Finger prick blood samples for this test have not been authorised by Abbott, and there is not sufficient data available as yet to indicate that a finger prick sample provides an accurate test result. 

We offer an antibody test kit for coronavirus that you can find more information about here.

Page last reviewed:  29/07/2020