Coronavirus antibody testing is available by doctor’s referral on an experimental basis at selected Mehiläinen clinics. We always confirm positive antibody test results with a supplementary method that improves the reliability of the results. However, immunity against a new infection, or the duration of the immunity, cannot be directly assessed on the basis of the test. The purpose of the antibody test is to support other diagnostic methods used by doctors. The primary coronavirus test performed on patients with symptoms is the analysis of a nose and throat sample.
In the coronavirus antibody tests, blood is examined for antibodies produced against the new coronavirus COVID-19, which is the cause of the pandemic. As this virus is new to the world, people in Finland have not been exposed to it before and therefore do not have specific antibodies against it. Antibodies are a sign of a current or recent infection caused by this coronavirus.
What are antibodies?
When foreign microbes, such as viruses or bacteria, invade the body, they trigger a defensive reaction. White blood cells, the human body's first line of defence, start to produce antibodies which bind to the invading organism and activate the entire defence system broadly to destroy the virus. If the same virus tries to enter the human body again, the defensive cells remember it and the defensive reaction is quicker. Immunity is achieved when a sufficient level of antibodies is present in the blood. This enables the defensive reaction to start rapidly and the same virus cannot make the individual ill again.
What does the antibody test indicate?
It may take weeks for the body to produce measurable quantities of antibodies in the blood. As for the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, it has been found that the body starts to produce antibodies as early as a couple of days after the first symptoms appear. However, as the process varies greatly between individuals, the antibody test should only be performed after at least 10 days have passed from the onset of symptoms.
Even if the patient has contracted the virus, the antibody test result may be negative if it is performed too soon, or the body has not yet produced measurable quantities of antibodies. At the active, infectious stage of the illness, the best test method is to diagnose the virus from a sample taken from the patient’s nasal cavity. If symptoms persist, the test taken from a sample of the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity can become unreliable, but antibodies may give an indication of the viral infection. After an infection, the antibodies are likely to be present for months, maybe years, but this is not yet known in the case of the new coronavirus.
How and when is an antibody test performed?
At present, the antibody test used on an experimental basis at Mehiläinen involves taking a blood sample from the patient’s fingertip or ulnar vein and testing it for IgM or IgG antibodies of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The finger-prick test results are ready in about 15 minutes. It takes about two weeks for the laboratory test results of a blood sample taken from the ulnar vein to be completed.
Antibody tests can be used as part of an assessment by a doctor to support the diagnosis of persistent respiratory tract infections, suspected to be caused by the coronavirus, when at least 10 days have passed since the onset of the symptoms. All positive antibody test results of patients experiencing respiratory tract symptoms are confirmed by testing a sample taken from the nasal cavity in order to exclude a coronavirus infection at the infectious stage. The experimental use of the tests will provide valuable additional information about the presence of antibodies at various stages of the infection.
All positive antibody test results of patients showing no symptoms, based on the finger-prick test, are confirmed by taking a blood sample from the patient’s ulnar vein for analysis.
Price and results of antibody test
The price of the finger-prick antibody test is EUR 59 (incl. the test to confirm a positive result), also in connection with taking a sample from the nasal cavity.
A doctor always decides whether an antibody test is suitable, and a doctor’s referral is always required for the test. The test cannot be performed without a referral. You can be referred to the antibody test through Digital Clinic.
The result of the antibody test will be sent to you in OmaMehiläinen.
Where is antibody testing done?
Page last updated: 28 April 2020.