Dylan Dreyer revealed on TODAY that she has tested positive for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, which led to questions of what exactly that means for her going forward during the coronavirus pandemic.
The co-host and meteorologist spoke with Dr. Kavita Patel on the 3rd hour of TODAY about whether she now has immunity from getting the virus and what it means for her two young children.
"Unfortunately, as much as it would be comforting to believe that an antibody-positive test means you're invincible, the truth is that we don't know," Patel said.
Dylan had direct exposure to the virus because her husband, Brian Fichera, was diagnosed with it in March and had "a really scary" battle with the illness while quarantining himself in the bedroom of their 3-year-old son, Calvin, at their New York City apartment.
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That prompted Dylan to get a nasal swab test to see if she had active coronavirus, as well as an antibody test, which determines if your body has had an immune response to a past coronavirus infection.
She tested negative for active COVID-19 and positive for antibodies.
"We hope that that tells us that you had exposure in the past," Patel said about the antibody test. "We don't know when, we think it tells us you had COVID-19 in your system. However — there's a big however — there's been a wide variation in the performance of these tests."
The quality of the test and the prevalence of the virus in your community can play a crucial role in the accuracy of the test results, according to Patel.
Patel advised that Dylan continue to practice safety guidelines even though she tested positive for antibodies. The value in the test at this juncture is knowing that you had previous exposure to the coronavirus and to prompt anyone you've been in contact with to get tested.
"We do believe from research to date that there is some short-term immunity, but that hasn't been proven in long-term studies," Patel said. "It's something we're tracking closely, so you should still continue to social distance as you are, wear a non-medical mask and practice hand hygiene for the sake of yourself and others."
Patel also cited another important factor in suggesting those who test positive for antibodies continue with safety precautions.
"The reason why is because you can actually develop antibodies and still have active virus, for example, and potentially infect others," Patel said. "We know Dylan had it checked in the nose, but that doesn't mean necessarily that everything is free and clear.
"We know in studies and in following people that you can actually shed the virus for even weeks after you have symptoms."
Dylan is also breastfeeding her 4-month-old son, Oliver, and wanted to know what the presence of antibodies could mean for him.
"We have not detected the virus itself in breast milk, so it's been safe for mothers who are (COVID-19) positive, to safely, wearing a mask, to breastfeed their children," Patel said.
However, Patel added that based on where Dylan her family live in New York City, her two boys could meet the criteria to get tested because they have been in close contact with Dylan and her husband.
"I think the important point here is that testing is getting more and more readily available in the United States, and you should be able to have a concrete conversation with your doctor (about it), and first and foremost, still continue to practice all the things that you've been doing," Patel said.
More than 150 antibody tests have flooded the market in recent weeks and had their accuracy questioned by experts, with only a handful of them receiving approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The tests can range from $50 out of pocket to as much as $250, NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen reported on TODAY last month.
Patel stressed for people to be discerning when deciding what test to take.
"Consumers should all beware that anybody that's kind of directly approaching you about an 'easy test,' you should always consult your health care professional," she said.
Experts told Nguyen that serum antibody tests in which blood is drawn seem to be more accurate than the rapid finger prick tests. Patients should wait at least four weeks after the onset of symptoms before getting blood drawn for the test in order to give your immune system time to produce antibodies.