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Blood antibody tests: pilot study in Los Angeles of 1,000 patients to begin today. Tests will show how many people have immunity to SARS-COV-2.

2020-04-10
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photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann (geralt) via pixabay.com

The Los Angeles Times reports that a pilot study of 1,000 patients in Los Angeles county and Santa Clara will begin today.  Patients have been recruited by social media to come to a drive-in testing center at which they will have a finger-prick blood test.  The test is on a stick like the newer pregnancy tests.  It will give reports of positive or negative, depending on whether antibodies have been detected in the blood.

Unlike the nasopharyngeal swab test, which checks for the presence of the actual SARS-COV-2 antigen or the virus itself, this test will tell us whether patients have developed blood antibodies from an infection.  These antibodies, which will be present in blood even after an inapparent or asymptomatic infection, will be lasting.  The presence of antibodies will suggest that the patient is now immune from COVID and could end self-imposed isolation.

This new test is key to ending the lockdowns that have paralyzed the country and the world.  Rapid rollouts of antibody testing will be essential.  Already, Germany has introduced mass antibody testing– as usual, they are way ahead of most of the world in responding to the pandemic.  Several laboratory testing companies are involved in producing the new test– one says they will have 750 tests a day and are striving to increase their capacity.  Shortages of swabs and other supplies will not stop the new test because it depends only  on lancets, alcohol wipes (already in universal use for diabetic home blood sugar fingersticks), and the test stick itself.

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