Lately it seems that misinformation around COVID-19 testing spreads as quickly as the disease itself.

As a pathologist, a physician who specializes in laboratory medicine here in Tampa, I can help clear up that confusion — especially when it comes to antibody testing.

To ramp up supply, a range of tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies was introduced in the U.S. earlier this year with little regulatory scrutiny. Federal regulators have since cracked down, requiring manufacturers to provide data to show tests are accurate, but in the meantime, consumers should know some key pointers:

• COVID-19 antibody tests are not used for real-time diagnosis. Instead, physicians use them to detect whether a person has previously had the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

• This virus is so new that the medical community does not yet have solid data to support a solid understanding of what it means to have antibodies other than you have encountered the virus. Typically, antibodies suggest you are immune to further disease, but for COVID-19, we need more time and research to draw such conclusions.

Fortunately, research is accelerating worldwide, and we can expect antibody testing to improve. Until then, I urge you to maintain all social distancing guidelines — getting through this together depends on it.

Nicole Riddle, Tampa