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Emory University develops antibody test for COVID-19

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Emory University develops antibody test for COVID-19

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Aneesh Mehta, MD, associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, on April 13 discussed the new test in a conference call with reporters. 


Atlanta, GA – An antibody test for COVID-19 created by Emory University will soon be available to Emory Healthcare patients, providers and staff members.

The goal is to expand it “significantly” beyond that, Emory University says.

“The antibody tests, also known as serological tests, will provide important medical, scientific and epidemiological information as health care providers and public health experts try to gain knowledge of the COVID-19 impact on individuals and on our communities,” Emory University said.

Emory will test 300 people a day and plans to scale up testing.

“Emory hopes to reach a goal of 5,000 tests per day by mid-June,” Emory University said in a press release.

Aneesh Mehta, MD, associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, on April 13 discussed the new test in a conference call with reporters.

“As you know when a virus infects the body, it finds its target cell, then enters that cell hijacks its machinery to make clones of itself,” Mehta said. “It’s released through our body. Our immune system tries to find these new viruses and builds antibodies to find them and remove them … It’s critically important we are able to make these antibodies.”

This test will look for those antibodies, he said.

“We will be able to know whether people have been exposed to the virus and whether they are able to build these antibodies,” Mehta said. “It’s also important to look at how these antibodies are working within our bodies.”

Antibodies do not guarantee a patient has immunity to coronavirus, according to John Roback, MD, PhD, executive vice-chair for clinical operations in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and medical director of Emory Medical Laboratories.

The press release says, “Antibodies are small proteins created by the immune system in the process of fighting off a disease. Antibodies develop days after a person has been infected and can potentially help a person build immunity to protect against being re-infected. Emory will be leading cutting edge research into how and when this immunity occurs.”

The tests differ from the nasal swab tests. Those tests only test for the presence of active COVID-19 and can’t detect possible immunity.

“The results from these antibody tests will have important implications for determining our next steps in responding to this pandemic,” Roback said.

The test could soon help people who had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who weren’t able to be tested before and didn’t know if they were spreading the virus.

“In addition, the test for active COVID-19 can be falsely negative, and some people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic,” Emory University’s press release said. “The serology test will help fill those significant voids by identifying individuals in all these groups with previous active COVID-19 infection.”

Mehta acknowledged that “there are a lot of antibody tests that cover any coronavirus, and as we know there are multiple coronaviruses out there.”

He said Emory’s test will target a “very specific to a protein on the virus that causes COVID-19.”

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