COVID-19 Testing for Students and Employees
As part of the “Test” component of this endeavor, we are pleased to share that in mid-July, we are launching convenient, free, and voluntary COVID-19 antibody testing for our campus community.
Antibody tests determine whether a person has been exposed to the virus in the past, not if they are currently infected. We are using an antibody test that was developed at UArizona and leads the nation in test accuracy. This simple test is currently being successfully used in the antibody testing research study for the State of Arizona’s first responders and medical providers, and now we are expanding this IRB-approved research study to make it available to our campus community.
Students and employees who are already on our main campus this summer will be the first group invited to sign up for COVID-19 antibody testing. In the weeks that follow, antibody testing will be expanded to include all UArizona locations and all campus community members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please explore the FAQs so you can participate in this COVID-19 antibody research study and help to support The Road Back Fall 2020.
A COVID-19 virus test determines if you currently have COVID-19. In contrast, an antibody test determines whether you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past and have developed antibodies against the virus.
These types of blood tests detect whether your immune system has made proteins called antibodies. This test is for antibodies that attach to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
There are three types of tests that are being deployed during the pandemic – two that diagnose whether an individual is currently infected with the COVID-19 virus, and one that determines whether an individual has developed an immune response against the COVID-19 virus.
One type of diagnostic test is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, a molecular diagnostic testing technique that detects the genetic material from the virus. PCR tests involve nasal swabs and can be incredibly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results can take time.
The other type of diagnostic test is an antigen test, which is a diagnostic test designed for rapid detection of the virus that causes COVID-19. An antigen test can provide results in minutes. Antigen tests, which also require a swab, are very specific for the virus but are not as sensitive as PCR tests. Positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results may need to be confirmed with a PCR test.
The type of test that determines whether an individual has developed an immune response against the COVID-19 virus is a serological test that looks for antibodies to the virus, as part of either an active infection or a prior infection. These tests, which involve a blood draw, are not used to diagnose an active infection.
The antibody test developed by researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences is one of the most accurate in the country. The testing lab uses two different viral proteins, both of which must return antibody signals for a sample to be called positive. The lab then checks each sample a third time to confirm the ability of the antibodies to neutralize the virus and prevent infection.
Starting in July 2020 and continuing throughout the fall semester, email invitations to participate in this research study will go out to members of our campus community. Recipients will be directed to a link to register for antibody testing on a day and time that is convenient for them. Please don’t be concerned if one of your colleagues or friends receives an invitation to register for testing before you do; it will take weeks to offer the antibody testing in a manner that prevents long wait times while also adhering to safe physical distancing practices.
People can have the virus but not know it because they do not experience symptoms. Getting a test can confirm that you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past and have developed antibodies against the virus. Although researchers are still learning about COVID-19 antibodies, having antibodies may protect you from the virus in the future.
Most people who are infected by the virus make antibodies within a few weeks of infection. However, the amounts of antibodies vary among individuals. Low levels of antibodies might not be detected by this test.
In the absence of symptoms, it is unlikely for someone to have a positive antibody test and currently be infected.
A positive test result indicates the presence of antibodies. By itself, it does not indicate current infection or that you have immunity to COVID-19.
Results from your test should be available 7-10 working days after the test. You will receive an email to let you know when your results are available.
The presence of COVID-19 antibodies means that your immune system mounted a response against the virus. We do not yet know the amounts of antibodies that are required to fully prevent subsequent infections. Because we still do not know enough about this virus, protection should not be assumed and you should continue to follow all applicable local, state, and federal public health guidance aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, regardless of your test result.
No. Both tests can detect antibodies and past infection, but there are differences. Finger-prick tests provide rapid YES/NO answers at a clinic or your doctor’s office. However, the accuracy of these tests is highly variable between manufacturers. The University of Arizona test requires a blood draw, and internal validation studies suggest that this test is likely more accurate than most finger prick tests.
An Emergency Use Authorization request has been filed with the FDA, and testing has been allowed to begin. We anticipate formal FDA Emergency Use Authorization in the coming weeks. In addition, the test was developed in the university’s Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-approved lab, which means the lab has received federal authorization to test human specimens.
For the safety of our team members, other participants and our community, individuals with active COVID-19 symptoms will not be included in the current antibody testing. All participants will be screened for symptoms before their appointment, and anyone showing symptoms will not move forward in the process.
The antibody testing sites are located on the Main Campus as well as other University of Arizona locations. You will select the location during the registration process.
We've partnered with the State of Arizona to provide antibody testing across the state. Currently testing is being offered to healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers in Arizona.
You can contact us by phone or by email. The Call Center's phone numbers are 833-985-2304 (toll-free) and 520-848-4064. Phones are generally staffed from 9 AM to 5 PM, Arizona time. You can also send an email with your questions to UACOVID-19Testing@Arizona.edu, and we will respond to you as soon as possible.