Antibody test for H1N1?

I am pretty sure I already had H1N1 flu, just before the outbreak was announced. Now that they are talking about vaccines, I am interested in getting an antibody test to see if I’ve already had the infection. I work in the health field and would think this would be easy information to find, but it’s not. Does anyone know if there is an antibody test available and - if so - where I could request it? I wrote to the CDC and got their canned response that didn’t include info. about testing.

I do not have a definitive answer but I highly doubt that there is an antibody test commercially available … for any influenza, let alone pandemic A/H1N1. It would have very little clinical utility and therefore there would be very little demand.

To expand: what clinical circumstances would a physician really care if someone has had a specific influenza in the past? How would that information ever change a treatment plan? Well, you are suggesting one rare circumstance: you think that you may have already had H1N1 and if you could prove it then you’d want to avoid getting vaccinated. Yet the cost of the blood test would be greater than the cost of the vaccine so most of the time the better answer would be to just get a vaccine even if you may already have protective titres, assuming that you are in a target population group, either by your health field status or by a risk factor.

If you really wanted to know anyway and the cost/time was no factor then your best bet might be to contact the vaccine makers’ influenza research groups and to beg, cajole, bribe, them into using their lab’s antibody test.

Well, to be honest here, I’m an epidemiologist so I love shit like this and would just like to know. I did see that there was a surveillance study in Japan in which a whole school was tested, so I figured the test should at least be available for research purposes, if not for commercial use. I suspect that a lot of people had H1N1 and resolved it without going to the doctor. Population surveillance data would be useful for getting community infection rates, calculating case fatality rates and a lot of other stuff.

I developed flu symptoms that started deep in my lungs, which is very unusual, and I interact with people often who go back and forth from all parts of Mexico.

Well, I work in a lab that is collecting statistics for H1N1 and the only way we can lab confirm it is when the patient is symptomatic (the earlier the better) by taking a nasopharyngeal swab and sending that out for PCR. I believe this is the only way we (at least our referral lab) can test for H1N1.

Yeah, PCR would probably be for acute cases. I’m wondering about antibody tests.

It seems that researchers use hemagglutination inhibition assay to test for antibodies that react to pandemic A/H1N1. The link describes the assay and how it was used to determine that a segment of the population (mainly over 60) already have some reactive antibodies to this bug. I suppose you could e-mail the author of that virology blog with a question about getting tested as a member of the general public …

Hey Jill! What did you learn? I’m wondering the same thing as well. I think I had h1n1. When I went for the nose swab, I was told it was too late to be tested. Apparently, after 48 hours, the test becomes inaccurate. I don’t want to get the vaccine if I have natural immunity from previous infection. Any news or info would be appreciated.

If you’ve had a bout of illness that includes high fever, muscle aches and cough - and possibly vomiting and diarrhea (some cases had that) - in the last few months, the chances are high that you had H1N1. That’s about all we’re seeing in our hospital now. It’s too early for seasonal flu. CDC is still advising getting the vaccine, since you can’t be sure you had it. From the data I’ve seen, I’m fairly certain that I did.

Keep in mind there is RISK to receiving vaccines and you are cheating yourself from natural immunity-which is more powerful. If not needed, why receive the vaccine? There absolutely SHOULD be pre-testing for immunity prior to receiving the H1N1 vaccine. These short-supply resources should be reserved for the chronically ill, immune-deficient populations, who cannot fight this infection or the secondary infections as a possible result of being ill. In addition, immunity as a result of surviving the natural infection is longer-lasting than the vaccine-related immunity effect-that is why 60+ year olds are less afffected-they have seen this virus before in years past and still have protective antibodies-a true gift


Edits for Carla:
There shouldn’t be any more risk from this vaccine than there is from the vaccine for seasonal flu that millions of people get yearly. The immunity you get from the vaccine protects you from the disease, which can be severe in some people. There is no “pre-testing for immunity” for people who had past infections. Testing is more expensive than the vaccine, which should be available in quantities sufficient for the at-risk populations. It’s not just immunosuppressed people who are at risk for serious illness; young, otherwise healthy adults are getting very sick and so are pregnant women.

I too am virtually certain that my family had H1N1 last May. There was an outbreak in our province and all four of us had classic symptoms. My kids have never had flu shots and I’d rather not expose them to the risks (albeit minimal) if they already have the antibodies. My spouse has an autoimmune disorder and is being treated with drugs that specifically target white cells. There’s no good information about how that type of person will respond to a flu shot if already exposed to the actual virus. Any ideas?

DrRosie, Your spouse should ask the provider who is treating him for his autoimmune disorder to advise re. the immunization.

For most people, flu vaccines carry almost no risk; especially compared to getting the disease.

So, Jillgat, have you received the vaccine yet?
Any more info on the ellusive antibody test?
I too am a front line health care worker who is fairly certain I have had H1N1 in Sept and am allergic to Thimerisol so am unable to get the vaccine. (not that I really want it anyway)
I am running into nothing but roadblocks in my quest for an antibody test. I would be willing to pay for it but it just seems to be impossible to obtain!

cat woman, there is no thimerisol in the single dose H1N1 vaccine. Yes, I got vaccinated in my workplace (the hospital). My guess is that the only place you could get the antibody test would be where they are doing seroprevalence testing, and I don’t know that anyone is testing populations for it. The new infection rate has gone down in my area, but it’s still possible for it to bounce back and be very virulent and severe for people who haven’t had it. I recommend you get vaccinated if you get the chance. It’s a safe vaccine.