Coronavirus (COVID-19): Antibody testing

Antibody testing is being used in Scotland for population research. It helps us understand:

Antibody testing is also used rarely, where appropriate, in the clinical management of patients. This means that clinicians – like GPs – can ask for an antibody test for a patient if they think it’ll benefit their care.

Antibody tests can help show if you’ve had a previous coronavirus infection or been vaccinated.

Antibody testing after a positive PCR test result

If you’re over 18, you can opt in to antibody testing on the UK Government portal when you book a PCR test. People who’ve opted in who then receive a positive PCR test result will be randomly selected to take part. Not everyone who opts in will be sent an antibody testing kit.

If selected, you’ll receive 2 antibody tests to do at home.

What does an antibody test involve?

You’ll need to prick your finger with a small needle (called a lancet) then squeeze your finger to collect blood in a small tube.

Your test kit contains instructions on how to complete the antibody test. Follow these carefully and use the equipment provided.

Further information from UK Government on how to do an antibody test correctly, including a follow along video

In the unlikely event of an injury while taking the test:

  • phone 999 for an emergency
  • phone 111 for a non-emergency

When to take the antibody tests

The first antibody test must be taken 1 to 3 days after your positive PCR test result. The second antibody test must be taken 28 days after your positive PCR test result.

You’ll receive your antibody test result by text 2 to 4 days after you post each test.

Your result will tell you if antibodies have been detected in your blood. Full information about of what your result means will be sent with your result. 

Positive antibody test result

A positive antibody test does not mean you’re immune from further infection or from being able to infect others. No matter the result of your antibody test, you should still follow protective measures and self-isolation advice.

Negative antibody test result

A negative antibody test after you’ve had your vaccine does not necessarily mean you have no protection from serious illness. Protection from the vaccine is complex. It does not only depend on detecting antibodies. You do not need to take any action if you have a negative antibody test after vaccination.

If you have any concerns about your test result, phone 119.

Why should I take part in antibody testing?

By taking part, you’re helping the NHS understand how well the vaccines are working against different variants.

The research is also helping us to understand more about how immunity is affected by:

  • vaccination
  • previous coronavirus infection

Public Health Scotland and Public Health England will share relevant findings about vaccines, immunity and variants when appropriate.

Read further information from the UK Government about antibody testing for coronavirus.