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COVID-19 Antibody Test Development

Taxonomy Code: JP-1500.1520

Organizations that are working on development of a serology test that looks for an immune response to the COVID-19 virus in blood samples. The test takes a sample of a person's blood and looks for antibodies (small proteins created by a person's immune system during the process of fighting off a disease). A positive result indicates that the person was previously infected with the virus, even though they were never diagnosed with the virus and/or never felt sick. Scientists do not know yet if the antibodies will protect the individual from reinfection or how long the protection might last, but are conducting research to answer those questions. Anecdotal evidence from China, preliminary studies in animal models and experience from previous outbreaks (e.g., SARS and MERS) suggest that a person who has had and recovered from COVID-19 is protected from getting it again. Having a serologic test may provide the opportunity to tell, for example, whether health care workers have developed immunity making it safe for them to remain on the job. A serologic test also might be used to determine the levels of COVID-19-related antibodies in a person's blood ― information that may be useful in the experimental treatment known as convalescent plasma therapy. Plasma is the component of the blood with no blood cells. The idea behind this treatment, which involves giving patients an infusion of antibody-rich plasma from those who have recently recovered, is that COVID-19 antibodies might neutralize the virus or jump-start a patient's own immune response. What's clear is that serology will contribute to wide-ranging areas of COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment and research. Researchers will want to use serology to learn more about timing. For instance, how soon after infection do patients with COVID-19 develop antibodies? This information may help track the progress of the disease. How long do COVID-19 antibodies last in the body? The answer will be helpful in the development and scheduling of an eventual vaccine. Ultimately, serology will provide a crucial tool to track and address the pandemic and could give us a more accurate estimate of the number of people who have been infected.

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