I was shocked. Although it’s not clear that the antibodies actually offer immunity, I had treated my previous positive AB tests as a shield I could wave at, crying, “I’ve been there. Ready. I’m fine. Right or wrong. Now my precious protection was gone.
I called the test center. “Certainly a mistake,” I said magnificently. “I have previous tests to prove it.” The center, having never seen a repeat antibody loss test before, returned to the lab to see what was happening.
The lab replied, “Oh, no, Mr. Quest has antibodies, just not enough to register on the scale.”
I needed to know more, so I immediately went into the whirlwind of Google, after which I fought with a scientific article on the Abbott SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody test. IgG refers to class G immunoglobulin antibodies in your blood that, when washed, mixed, and tumble dried with other chemicals (as well as loading other things I didn’t understand), produce an antibody index where the cut-off point is 1.4 . And I was cut off.
For the past five months, my disappearing antibodies had dropped to meaningless, and so my bravado claimed protection. Now I seem to be back in the first place: I’m vulnerable to Kovid again.
When I told my infectious disease doctor in New York, he was not a little surprised. He cited recent studies showing that antibodies do weaken and shrink for 90 days – no one has yet had the opportunity to do much research beyond that.
But as my doctor continued, this is only half of the body’s defense mechanism. T cells, an important part of the attacking force of our immune system, have viral memory.
They will remain at rest until (or if) the body comes in contact with Covid-19 again, after which my immune system will activate and start producing antibodies once more.
It was, my doctor said, “very, very unlikely to get Kovid again this year … medically amazing.” Then I was quickly persuaded that none of this should make me give up social distancing, hand washing, and other antiviral measures.
Resistance, but without immunity?
I connect all this because this is another example of our collective distortive journey with this disease. The pandemic’s progressive progress creates fear, then hope, then fear again, seemingly endlessly.
I’ve seen many Covids recover quietly flaunt their antibody status as if it were a shield for life. Still, I’d bet good money that if they do a new test, they’ll also find that their armor is cracked or has holes in it.
I only found the curious case of my decreasing antibodies, because I often get tested for my work trips.
I like to think that common sense tells me I can’t catch Covid again in the short term – otherwise we would have heard of many more cases of re-infection. So far, there are only a few strange cases and they usually have unique circumstances. Yet common sense must now be pushed out of that deadly but ridiculous cliché: “abundance of caution.” For now, I will only accept common sense.
All this teaches me that what was a fact yesterday does not mean that it is the same today. Experts say we know much more about Covid now than we did six months ago. This is true at the helicopter level, where governments make national policies, and also at the levels as I deal with my life.
My new reality is that I no longer have the antibodies I used to be so proud of. I may have resistance based on T-cell memory and I am unlikely to be infected again, but I can! I just wonder what other “security” will fall apart after that.
While I wait to find out, I will follow the rules.