Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a positive antibody test and some colored bracelet like in the movies that gives us a free pass to galivant around crowded public places with ease? This would also make doctors’ lives much easier too, allowing patients to resume their normal aesthetic routines with confidence. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. Here’s an update on what we know about antibody testing and its role in aesthetics right now.
On July 31, the FDA authorized the first two COVID-19 serology tests that displayed an estimated quantity of antibodies present in a person’s blood. Both tests—the ADVIA Centaur COV2G and Atellica IM COV2G, both from Siemens—are considered “semi-quantitative,” which means they don’t determine a precise measurement of antibodies, but rather they estimate the quantity of a patient’s antibodies produced against infection with the COVID-19 virus.
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According to The Aesthetic Society, antibody tests are not clinically relevant for plastic surgeons. “However, as the puzzle of antibody tests is being pieced together, the relevance of antibody tests is going to be increasingly important,” the organization reports. “The more knowledge of antibody testing could prove extremely valuable.”
At Chicago plastic surgeon Michael Horn, MD’s practice, patients undergo an antigen swab test the day of surgery (his staff is regularly tested as well). “This test reliably determines whether the patient has an active COVID-19 infection, and if it is positive, we do not perform surgery that day,” he says. “The other available test, the antibody test, determines whether the patient has been exposed to COVID-19 during the past month or so, and a positive test does not necessarily mean there’s an active infection. Additionally, it is not yet known whether positive antibodies mean permanent immunity to COVID.”
Dermatologists are following similar protocols, focusing on maintaining CDC guidelines and conducting COVID-19 tests when needed, but antibody tests are not the current focus. “In my office, we follow protocols to reduce exposure risks, take temperatures and screen for active symptoms—recent contact within the past four weeks with any suspected or confirmed cases—but testing for each visit is not practical at this point,” Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD explains.
As far as expectations in aesthetic offices surrounding antibody testing, Dr. Papantoniou says that as far as she knows, there is no definitive answer to this right now. “This is why everyone should be careful, even those who tested positive but feel fine. Proper hand hygiene and masks are super important to prevent the spread.”