Thursday, June 1, 2023

What is an antibody?

Written By Rebant Patodi (Grade 8)

In this lockdown, we have come to know many terms like social distancing, social bubble, endemic, pandemic, antibody and much more. I am sure that you are very familiar with these terms but have you ever thought about what an antibody is? Many people are confused with the term “antibody”. You may have heard people saying that they tested positive for antibodies. But what does it exactly mean?

An antibody is a protein produced by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses) and chemicals. So, to test if you have an antibody you need to have an antibody testing. It involves screening a sample of blood for tiny molecules called antibodies that have “learned” to respond to a pathogen, such as a virus. Antibodies learn to recognize and fight off specific viruses through exposure to them. This means that if a doctor finds antibodies, that respond to a certain virus in a person’s blood, they can confirm that the person has already been exposed to an infection.

However, this can be confused with antigen. So, what is an antigen? An antigen test reveals if a person was infected with a pathogen such as the COVID-19 virus. Once the infection has gone, the antigen disappears.

Antibody tests help us to track the spread of a disease, they can help us to estimate how many people have already been infected. In case of COVID-19 antibody tests can help us identify who should be prioritized for vaccination when it’s ready. The test is also helpful in finding donors for plasma therapy. Antibody tests are always not correct as a negative result may occur if the test is taken too soon after infection as antibodies wouldn’t have formed in the person’s body. False positive tests can also occur if there is another previous infection duo to other viruses.

I hope you have understood some of these terms, please wear masks all the time, wash your hands regularly and stay home and safe from this pandemic.

Featured Image Courtesy – The Conversation