If you are looking to regain your freedom back in society when this Coronavirus Lockdown is over and also want to know you are safe and not going to infect others, and also wanting to get your hands on one of the upcoming “immunity passports” the government are talking about then you are likely to be one of the millions that are also looking to be tested for the Coronavirus.
If you are an NHS staff key worker you have been promised to get tested at some point as they ramp up the numbers of tests available but maybe you don’t want to or in fact cant wait for a host of reasons and are also concerned about accuracy of these proposed tests.
Whatever your situation there are many people considering one of the antibody tests talked about all over social media and promoted by the government. However you may also be concerned about whether they are reliable and accurate, what will they actually tell you and then how do you get your hands on one when all the chat is they are in short supply and only then available on pre-order, then read on.
Choose The Right Lab Test For The Right Question
The lab tests I use are all from market leading long established lab testing companies with history and that use researched tests with science behind them. When I run a certain test I know if its a urine sample then that’s the best way to look at the issue, not blood or saliva. If it needs blood we run a blood test if that’s where the science lies. You can discover issues with how your body works from a hair sample that saliva can’t but there are situations where saliva trumps blood or urine and so on. Sometimes you need to look at a problem with more than one type of test and more than one body tissue, urine and blood, or whatever the combination is that gets the information we need.
When it comes to the markers in a test, its a similar situation where a valid marker for the situation that provides the insight is only available from certain tests. Some times clients will have a blood test for example they had run before and ask me if they can use it to help us together figure out what to do in terms of food or even exercise to resolve an issue. However its quite common that the markers they have are not complete to paint the picture or not relevant to the questions we are trying to answer. Stool tests are another good example where the bugs tested can be limited and quite often are only the ones that cause disease whereas there are many other bugs, opportunistic, that can cause secondary infections and lead to the very symptoms you are experiencing but haven’t been included as markers in the test you have had done elsewhere.
So normally my challenge is providing the information for people to make educated decisions on why they need to get tested and which tests to run that have the markers we want to see. However where we are right now with coronavirus is everyone and their dog wants tested. We all want to know if we have it or have had it, and are we infectious?
Problems With SARS-CoV-2 Lab Tests
Most Common Test For Coronavirus – PCR
SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, is the name of the novel or new virus, from the family of coronaviruses that causes the illness, 2019-nCoV, or COVID-19. By now everyone will be sick fed up hearing that being explained in the media. There has been a lot of press initially about all the positive cases that came from the use of a test called RT-PCR (real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for anyone that really cares) and then this test went on to receive negative publicity with too many false positives. There is little to no point in a test where you are told you have the infection when in fact you haven’t. Similarly returning negative results which are less talked about and you are in fact positive is all a serious issue.
The use of this test to identify the virus is what initially brought all the attention to this new illness, COVID-19. There are lots of issues with the technical side of this test such as the reagents that they test each sample with being different in different countries that return varying results, as well as the mechanics for how they decide if the sample is positive or negative has been inconsistent even with the same person on different samples from one day to the next. Some people have gone from positive to negative and back to positive again which from one day to the next just isn’t possible. To be fair as more people submit samples and labs collaborate on findings results will improve in accuracy and reliability.
There are also issues with the sample type whether a swab has been taken from the inside of your mouth, throat or your nose or both and ideally also a mouthful of goob (yuck!) from your throat, called sputum. The consensus at present is to confirm presence of the virus from a nasal sample, correctly called naso-pharyngeal, in combination with a sputum sample. These group of test samples are called respiratory samples.
I quite liked the following image from a study evaluating the use of the RT-PCR test for diagnosis and treatment. The aim is to take the sample and grow or multiply the amount of virus in cycles, so the less cycles and the greater the amount of virus it takes the more likely you are positive is the over-simplified explanation. However the image shows results out of sequence to specifically highlight that only the first 6 results were from patients with serious infections requiring oxygen. Looking at the variety of results on show here and not being a scientist or medic makes that one hell of a challenge to come to that conclusion.
New Testing For Coronavirus – Antibody Test
The RT-PCR is now being less favoured over the recently much hyped on the news and media, antibody test. This is a finger prick blood sample for antibodies to the virus. The hope is that more of these tests will be made available to the public for at home testing. The PCR testing looking at the DNA of the coronavirus is difficult but the antibody test in terms of the technical challenges is even more difficult to get right, its looking at the body’s immune response to the presence of the virus.
For example ten different antibody tests have been used in hospitals across China. The issue is that the test can show, although for many tests inconsistently, that at some point you have had the virus and were a carrier. The inconsistency can come from the test lacking specificity and identifying that you have had an infection from a coronavirus but not the coronavirus we all care about at present, SARS-CoV-2. It doesn’t tell you if you still have the virus and are still able to infect others. If you have had the virus even without symptoms your body in order to develop immunity will have created antibodies to it. That’s where the term herd immunity comes in that is also being talked about. Having previously had the infection and displaying antibodies in a test is yet to be widely confirmed by scientists as definitive evidence of future immunity, although it is largely assumed to be the case.
Respiratory samples will show the presence of the infection within a specific timeline so depending on when you get tested you may or may not show signs of infection with symptoms and the test may not come back positive to show you have had it. So again the type of sample and markers looked at impact the value of the test you choose.
Superior Testing For Presence Of Coronavirus – Stool Test
- Identify presence of virus over longer period
- Identify longer term transmission risk and infection route
- Identify viral infection in gut indicates higher risk for more severe infection
- Identify an additional entry point to the body
- Better guide approaches to support health and recovery
There is evidence that once you have shown from a respiratory sample that you are no longer positive, but then go on to run a stool test specific for the virus, you can show up as positive up to 30 days afterwards! These stool tests are now starting to come to the fore as being more relevant and accurate. This means that you could have a mouth swab test come back positive to then believe you are “safe” to be in closer contact with people again but in fact still be able to infect people.
The virus has been shown to survive in the digestive system and then to be spread from your stool up to 5 weeks after receiving a negative result from a respiratory sample. You can even have the virus in your digestive system and still have no symptoms.
This makes it all a bit crazy and more challenging to know are you in the clear, are you safe and do you need to keep washing your hands, well yes we all need to always keep washing our hands, and to continue to follow the other measures we have been strongly encouraged (some say instructed) to follow to avoid being infected or transmitting the virus; social isolation and social distancing. This longer term view strengthens the argument for considering a stool test if you are looking to establish if you have been infected.
If you ran a stool test for presence of the coronavirus you would be more aware of the potential to spread it via the faecal-oral route. This is the most common route to food poisoning so if the virus can be found in your stool that means it can end up on the toilet, on the sink, on your hands and can end up in your food or cutlery and dish ware you eat and drink off! Sorry I know not a nice thought.
However this is how many other common digestive infections are also spread, many of which we are unaware of lurking about our digestive systems such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Giardia that you are less like to have heard of and rotavirus, viral meningitis, E.coli and Salmonella that you are more likely to have heard of. Knowing about the presence of the virus in your own gut would help you become so much more aware of sanitation and hygiene more specifically within the weeks following infection.
There is evidence from China that around four-fifths of cases are asymptomatic. So even if you don’t have symptoms there is a strong likelihood you have had it and that lack of awareness can increase risk of unwitting transmission.
It is believed that viral infection in the gut not only impacts gut health but also overall progression of the disease leading to a more severe illness. If having bugs in your gut can negatively impact the good bugs in your lungs then the reverse is true and the virus enters the body via the lungs. The presence of the virus in the lungs can then separate to issues with the coronavirus itself lead to more imbalance in the good bugs, probiotics in your gut and consequently the health of your gut and by default your health beyond the timeline of this viral pandemic.
If the virus causes dysbiosis or imbalance in bacteria in the lungs and gut then this can promote the development of secondary bacterial pneumonia’s. This overload of the immune system is what leads to more serious cases. There are over 6 million viruses out there running about the planet so the coronavirus wont be alone in sneaking about inside the bodies of those infected, but it is definitely one likely to be at a level higher than others and impacting if not current health then future health.
I have spoken plenty of times in the past about the value of testing to actually find out what is going on in the inside and stop guessing and in the case of the coronavirus this is a current in the here and the now internal and without the presence of symptoms, a hidden stressor.
Monitor, Manage And Prevent Transmission Of COVID-19
As well as coronavirus appearing to gain access to the body via the cells lining the lungs there is evidence it also can gain access through the cells lining the gut. In 2-18% of COVID-19 patients they had diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Some 10% reported diarrhoea 1-2 days before they developed fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with more severe forms of the illness frequently reported abdominal pain.
The cutting-edge viral RNA qPCR that the stool test I am now using with clients, measures levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A positive result can indicate actual infection with SARS-CoV-2, at the time of collection. SARS-CoV-2 can be detected in stool for typically about 1-2 days before COVID-19 symptoms present and many days after the symptoms have disappeared.
This stool test is a superior option to the antibody test as its based on existing and respected technology. It is the same technology that has been used to identify many pathogenic or diseases causing infections such as C.Diff, and what some would see as less serious, but still well known, Candida. The RT-PCR test identifies presence of the virus whereas this specific stool test using qPCR actually works out how much you have of it, the q standing for the actual quantity of virus. I have been using qPCR based stool tests for almost 10 years when creating personalised gut health programs.
Some regulatory bodies such as the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), have already chosen to relax normal assessment criteria in an attempt to bring to market faster the antibody tests to satisfy demands from governments and the public. Whereas stool testing using qPCR technology has been in practice and successfully used the world over to identify the presence of digestive infections.
As well as making changes to diet to better support gut health and the function of the immune system the information from this stool test can provide the support for the introduction of probiotics and a more personalised antiviral supplement protocol based on previous research shown to be protective against the flu virus and pneumonia infections.
Who Should Do This Test?
We have all heard plenty in the media about the high risk groups, those with underlying conditions that are more negatively affected, such as;
- Autoimmune conditions,
- Pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma,
- High blood pressure,
- The elderly (over 70 years of age)
People in those groups may gain peace of mind running this test. Additionally it can be helpful for the following individuals with signs and symptoms such as;
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal complaints
It could also benefit you if you haven’t had symptoms of being infected but are concerned about having or transmitting the virus. The test can also be used if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19 by a respiratory sample and want to know if you are now clear of the infection from within the gut as well.
It has been shown that as we age we have lower amounts of our sleep and recovery hormone, melatonin. This is one of the reasons argued for why the elderly are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. In addition and separate to age I have found that those with digestive infections and poor gut health typically have more sleep issues and lower levels of melatonin.
Improving gut health can directly improve melatonin so as well as improving sleep which is key to immune health, better gut health raises melatonin and can help protect against infection. Alongside vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, probiotics there are health experts advising on the use of melatonin as a specific anti viral protocol for avoiding the coronavirus. The role of melatonin here is to reduce the “cytokine storm”, (cytokines are the immune system’s inflammatory chemical responders), you may have heard of that seems to happen in the more serious cases as the bodies immune system basically over reacts.
Along side your health history and symptoms we then have a more personalised strategy for improving the gut microbiome to in turn improve immune defences preventing future respiratory infections from viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and therefore tackling the spread of COVID-19. If you are going to get tested for the presence of coronavirus its far better to look to use a valid, reliable, accurate and trusted test that is available now and you can get specific, targeted advice on how to move forward.
Disclaimer: The SARS-CoV-2 Stool Analysis is not diagnostic of COVID-19. COVID-19 disease can only be diagnosed with positive SARS-CoV-2 results on a respiratory sample obtained from a licensed medical practitioner. A positive result on the SARS-CoV-2 Stool Analysis can indicate actual infection with SARS-CoV-2, at the time of collection.