What Are Antibodies?

What Are Antibodies? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

When bacteria, viruses and other types of microbes invade your body and try to make you sick, your immune system kicks into gear and fights hard to protect you. One of the ways in which your immune system does this is through the production of antibodies, which are stored in your immunoglobulin protein and are produced when they react with things such as protein antigens, including infectious organisms, toxins, and even pollen. Produced antibodies will then locate and attack these antigens.

Types of Antibodies

There are four different types of antibodies to make note of, each of which come with their own set of roles and responsibilities. These include:

• IgM antibodies
• IgG antibodies
• IgA antibodies
• IgE antibodies

IgM antibodies are produced as soon as your immune system’s cells alert to an antigen and will immediately go to the location of the infection in your body to offer some temporary protection while triggering IgG antibodies.

IgG antibodies, unlike IgM antibodies, stick around longer by circulating through your blood and will continue to try to fight off your infection.

IgA antibodies attempt to prevent foreign invaders before you become ill, and are produced via bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat and tears.

IgE antibodies are most commonly triggered through things like pollen, bug bites, foods, or other allergens. They trigger the immune system quickly and result in an allergic reaction such as skin itching, runny nose, and even anaphylaxis – which is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.

COVID-19 and Antibodies

The topic of antibodies is also something that you may recall being mentioned in relation to COVID-19. When you are exposed to a new virus such as this, your body will typically create antibodies to help defend you from it in the future should you happen to be exposed to it again. That being said, because there have been several cases where individuals have been diagnosed with COVID-19 on more than one occasion and because it’s still considered to be such a new type of infection, it’s not yet known just how effective antibodies are in preventing a recurrence of the virus, or how long the protection of antibodies will last.

When it comes to testing for antibodies, this is done via a simple blood test which can determine whether or not you’ve had COVID-19 in the past – even if you were asymptomatic. In Canada, you cannot yet request antibody testing as it is only being conducted for limited clinical and research use. It’s also important to note that because it can take time for the body to produce enough antibodies, it is also not being conducted as a diagnostic tool. If you suspect you have COVID-19 or have been around someone infected with the virus, it’s recommended that you go for a viral test. To find a COVID-19 testing location, you should contact your local health authority. If you reside in British Columbia, you can find a testing centre by clicking here.