Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): antibody testing

Updated 24 January 2024

Applies to: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

This guidance does not apply to people who have taken part in antibody research studies. If you were part of a study, use the guidance given to you. For help, contact your research study co-ordinator.

Antibody testing

An antibody test is a blood test to check if you’ve had coronavirus (COVID-19) before or been vaccinated.

The NHS and scientists can use this information to improve their understanding of how the body reacts to the virus and how it spreads.

The test detects your body’s response to the virus or vaccination but cannot tell you if you currently have COVID-19.

Who can get an antibody test kit

The antibody testing service to check if you’ve had COVID-19 closed in March 2022.

If you opted to take part in antibody testing after a positive PCR test result on GOV.UK, and returned your first test kit before the service closed, you should still receive your test result. You will not receive your second test kit.

Please do not return antibody test kits you have at home, as these will no longer be tested and you won’t receive a result.

What your antibody test result means

If you’re part of an antibody research study, this information may not be right for you. Always use the guidance provided by the study to find out what your result means.

You should get your result within 3 to 7 days of taking the test (usually by text or email).

There are different types of antibody tests. Make sure you check the message you receive to help you understand what your result means.

Positive antibody test result

A positive result means the test did detect COVID-19 antibodies.

Antibodies for COVID-19 mean you are likely to have some protection from severe disease, but it’s still possible to get the virus or spread it.

Negative antibody test result

A negative result means the test did not detect COVID-19 antibodies.

Antibodies take time to develop. Most people make antibodies within 28 days of being infected or vaccinated, but it can take longer.

Void antibody test result

A void result means the test did not work.

This could be because there was a problem with the test kit or because the blood sample was too small.

It’s still important to record a void result for research purposes.

After you get your result

Regardless of your antibody test result you must continue to follow the same guidelines as everyone else to protect yourself and others from the virus.

Get the latest advice on how to protect yourself and others from the virus.

If you think your result is wrong

The test is accurate but no at-home test is 100% reliable all of the time.

COVID-19 is new and more research needs to be done to understand how our bodies respond to it. For example, we need to find out if antibodies are always produced and how long they last.

If you have any concerns about your test result, call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines).

Lines are open:

  • 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday

Lines are closed on weekends and bank holidays. 119 provides support in 200 languages.

SignVideo is a free online British Sign Language interpreter service for 119.