Antibody FAQ’s

The Study

Why have I been invited to participate?

You have been invited to participate in this antibody study because you have completed the one of the SABRE COVID-19 survey’s.

Who is involved in this study?

The SABRE is working with other population and longitudinal studies across the UK to test our participants for the presence of certain antibodies the body makes to fight off a COVID-19 infection.

Do I have to take part?

No. Whether you take part in the study is entirely up to you. Even if you do decide to take part, you can change your mind at any time without giving a reason. If you decide not to participate, this decision will not in any way affect your ability to continue to participate in future data collections. It will not affect any NHS treatment you receive if you do not take part. If you decide you do not want to take part, please throw away the testing kit as set out in the test instructions which come with it.

What are the benefits and risks of taking part?

Population based research studies in the UK are asking their participants to provide a sample for the same antibody testing. Analysing the information from Understanding Society alongside these other studies will help us understand who has had COVID-19, and why some people develop severe disease and others do not.

Possible benefits:

  • Your involvement will contribute to the fight against COVID-19.
  • Antibody tests are not widely available. By taking part in this study you will have access to one.

Possible risks:

  • Your finger may be a bit sore from the finger prick needed to produce blood drops. As you would with any small cut, the area should be kept clean to avoid infection. However, the process and products in the kit are used routinely in a wide range of healthcare applications, including measurement of blood glucose levels in the management of diabetes. The equipment is sterile and following the instructions provided in the kit will minimise risk of infection (such as cleaning the area before and after) . In the unlikely event you injure yourself or feel unwell, please seek medical attention. Use the NHS 111 online service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Can I take part in this study if I have been vaccinated?

Yes. We are inviting study members to take part in this study whether or not you have received a COVID-19 vaccine (either one or both doses).

I’ve received the study pack in the post, but I no longer wish to take part. Do I need to do anything?

All participation in SABRE research is voluntary, and you are free to decline any element of any study. If you decide you do not want to take part, please throw away the testing kit as set out in the test instructions which come with it.

Giving a blood sample

Why are you requesting a blood sample?

We want to understand how many of our participants across the UK have developed antibodies to fight off a COVID-19 infection. Antibodies are made by the body in response to viruses, bacteria or during allergic reactions. Your blood sample will be tested for the presence of antibodies against COVID-19. This will help us understand the spread of the virus, vaccinations, and how people’s immune systems may have reacted to it.

I have had a COVID-19 vaccination, can I still take part in the study?

Yes, we would still like you to take part in the study even if you have had a COVID-19 vaccination, as your participation will help to measure how many people in the UK have already been infected with the virus which causes COVID-19.

What is involved in giving a blood sample?

If you give us permission by completing the consent (either online or in paper), we will pass your name and address onto Thriva, who will send you a blood testing kit through the post. The kit is small enough to fit through the letterbox.

When you receive the kit, please open it, and read all the instructions carefully.

You will need to prick your finger and collect about 10 drops of blood, which is about 0.5ml or one tenth of a teaspoon, into a small tube. A short video showing you what’s in the kit, and how to use it can be found here. You will find it helpful if you watch the video before you start.

When you’ve taken the sample, you need to return the tube containing the sample and lancets in the pre-paid envelope provided in the kit. The sample is returned to the blood testing laboratory, who will test your blood and send the results back to the SABRE.

Once we have your results, we will send you out a letter. The results will simply confirm whether you have antibodies or not. The results are not diagnostic, they are for research purposes only.

I’m not quite sure how to complete the blood collection. Is there a video I can watch?

Please see the YouTube video below.

Please be aware there may be minor differences between your kit and the one demonstrated in the video. Make sure you read both sides of the instruction sheet provided in your kit before starting the blood collection.

I’ve used the lancets provided in my kit but I have not been able to reach the 600 line on the blood tube. Should I still send back my blood tube?

Yes please. The lab will do their best to test your blood for antibodies, although this may not be possible if the volume of blood collected is too small. Do not attempt to prick your finger with anything other than the medical lancets provided.

I am having trouble doing the test, can you help?

Please refer to the instructions that accompanied the test kit for full details about how to do the test. There is also a video that you can watch that goes through the test step-by-step. Someone else in your household may also be able to help if you are having trouble.

I did the test wrong. Can you send me another test?

Unfortunately, we are not able to send you a replacement.

Can I reuse the test?

No, do not attempt to reuse the test. It is a single-use disposable device which is not intended for multiple uses.

I’ve injured myself or feel unwell – what should I do?

In the unlikely event you injure yourself or feel unwell, please seek medical attention. Use the NHS 111 online service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Results of the antibody test

When will I get my antibody results?

Please be aware this antibody test is being carried out for research purposes only and cannot be used to confirm a current or previous case of a COVID-19 infection. This research antibody test is not a measure of vaccine effectiveness.

We will send you your antibody research test results within 4-6 weeks of you sending back your blood sample in the post. We will tell you whether you have clearly detectable antibodies or not, or if the result was invalid.

What does the test measure?

Antibodies are made by the immune system to fight infection. This test looks for two types of antibodies, IgM, which are often short-lasting, and IgG, which are usually longer lasting. By looking for antibodies in blood, we may be able to understand whether someone has previously been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or been vaccinated.

However, whilst the results themselves are very specific to a COVID-19 response, they have limited sensitivity and do not guarantee a perfect result for individual diagnosis. This is a level of error we are able to correct for in analyses of whole populations, but which make the individual relevance of results limited.

My result came back as ‘not clearly detectable’. What does this mean?

This means your blood test did not show a clearly detectable level of certain antibodies against a COVID-19 infection. This could be because:

  • You have not been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Antibody status (both the level of the antibodies and the type of antibodies) changes over time from the point of infection, and so antibody levels may have declined over time.
  • You have been exposed to COVID-19 or had a COVID-19 vaccine but have different antibodies that this research test is not designed to pick up.

Please be aware this antibody test is being carried out for research purposes only and only picks up certain antibodies against COVID-19.

You should continue to follow government guidance on social distancing and self-isolation as appropriate. In addition, we encourage all Understanding Society members to have the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, regardless of antibody results. This can be found on www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

My test came back as ‘not clearly detectable’ after having a Covid-19 vaccine, does this mean it hasn’t worked and I could still get Covid-19?

After vaccination it can take some time for antibodies to appear in the blood which can vary from individual to individual, so depending on when you had your vaccination it may be that they have not yet appeared. It is also important to remember that these tests aren’t 100% accurate. At the moment, we do not know if the vaccine will protect everyone from getting or transmitting COVID-19. By taking part in research and telling us about your vaccination, you are helping us to understand more. Whatever your test result, you should continue to follow current Government advice. For the current Government guidance about COVID-19, please check here and for more information on the effectiveness of vaccine please visit here.

My result came back as ‘clearly detectable’. What does this mean?

Your blood test showed a clearly detectable level of antibodies against the virus responsible for COVID-19. This means that you may have had or been exposed to COVID-19 in the past and your body has mounted an antibody response. You may also have clearly detectable antibodies after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Please be aware this antibody test is being carried out for research purposes only and cannot be used to confirm a current or previous case of a COVID-19 infection. This research antibody test is also not a measure of vaccine effectiveness.

You should continue to follow government guidance on social distancing and self-isolation as appropriate. In addition, we encourage all Understanding Society members to have the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, regardless of antibody results.

My result came back as ‘clearly detectable’ after having a Covid-19 vaccine, does this mean it’s worked and I’m protected from the virus?

A positive test result could indicate that you may have had an immune response to the vaccine and have developed antibodies: although it’s important to remember that these tests aren’t 100% accurate. This type of antibody test also doesn’t differentiate if you have had an immune response because of the vaccine or because you have previously been infected with the virus. At the moment, we do not know if antibodies present in your blood will protect you from getting or transmitting COVID-19. Therefore, whatever your test result, you should continue to follow current Government advice. For the current Government guidance about COVID-19.

My antibody test result came back as invalid. What does this mean?

This means we do not know whether you have antibodies or not, as the test did not work properly with the blood sample provided. This may be because your blood sample was delayed when in transit back to the lab, which affected the quality of the blood sample. Unfortunately, we are unable to send out additional blood collection kits for further testing.

You should continue to follow all government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing as appropriate. In addition, we encourage all Understanding Society members to have the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, regardless of antibody results.

I previously tested positive for antibodies but this study’s result came back as ‘not clearly detectable’. What does this mean?

Antibody levels change over time from the point of infection. This difference in results may be because:

  • Different antibody tests can measure different antibody types, which can also lead to differing results.
  • This antibody research test was performed using finger-prick blood sent via post. This means the quality of the blood will be lower than that produced with some of the other antibody test conditions, which may affect the antibody research test result.
  • Antibody status (both the level of the antibodies and the type of antibodies) changes over time from the point of infection, and so antibody levels may have increased or declined compared with other tests done at different times.

Please be aware that all participants should continue to follow guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing as appropriate, regardless of antibody status.

In addition, we encourage all Understanding Society members to have the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, regardless of antibody results.

My antibody test results say I do not have clearly detectable antibody levels, but I previously had symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection. What does this mean?

This could be because:

  • The symptoms you experienced were the result of a flu or other bug, and you have not been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Antibody status (both the level of the antibodies and the type of antibodies) changes over time from the point of infection, and so antibody levels may have declined over time.
  • You may have been exposed to COVID-19 but have different antibodies that this research test is not designed to pick up.

You should continue to follow all guidance on self-isolation and social distancing as appropriate. In addition, we encourage all Understanding Society members to have the COVID-19 vaccine when offered, regardless of antibody results.

Information security

What happens to the information I give?

The information you give us will be held securely and treated in strict confidence in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. Any information that may identify you, such as your name, your contact details and the contact details of anyone else you give us, will be kept separate from responses to any other questions you have answered.  We hold any information which could identify you securely and never make this available to researchers.

For more details, please see our Privacy Policy.

How do we keep your information safe?

All information collected is treated with the strictest confidence in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

For more details, please see our Privacy Policy.