NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The US Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorization for serology testing. The test involves checking a blood sample to determine if a person has built up antibodies to COVID-19.
“One of the key things is, do those antibodies neutralize or inhibit the virus from infecting?” explains Dr. James Hildreth President of Meharry Medical College.
The presence of antibodies indicates the person had the virus, fought it off, and may have at least some immunity.
If they do, this could provide a medical breakthrough in fighting COVID-19 and in helping the economy get back on track.
“That means that those individuals that test positive to the antibodies could be released to go back to work because they are protected from getting reinfected,” says Hildreth.
As of now, it’s unknown how many people were exposed to COVID-19 and never showed symptoms. This means, in theory, there may be thousands of people with antibodies that could also help others infected.
“If we discover that antibodies in people who have recovered can block the virus,” Dr. Hildreth explains, “We can then use what’s called convalescent serum and give it to others who are fighting the virus to help them get rid of it.”
While those in the medical profession are hopeful, they acknowledge more testing is needed before the country returns to normal activity.
“We can measure antibodies and say that there are antibodies present, are they neutralizing? Meaning that, if you’re exposed to the infection, will you be able to fight that off and not get sick? That is what we don’t know. We also don’t know if there could be changes in the virus over time,” said Juli Horton, an infectious disease doctor at Centennial Medical Center.
Questions we hope provide answers that will bring us closer to treating COVID-19. Serology testing hasn’t been approved by the FDA, but testing is underway in large cities across the country.