Skip to main content

Antibody Testing Is Our Path Back to Work



The world has been sheltering in place for over a month now and everyone wants it to end.  There is much speculation about when cities in the US could start functioning again.  I've had a number of patients and friends ask about antibody tests to see if one has actually had Covid.  Most everyone can remember a "cold" or "sore throat" that they had since December and now wonder "Did I really have Covid-19?"

The answer to that will be provided with a serologic (blood) antibody test.  By taking a few drops of blood (not nasal swabs) we will be able to see if a person has built up antibodies to the virus.  That would mean they were at one time infected. We still don't know what level of antibody provides protection against catching it again, but if Covid-19 follows other viruses, it should be one-and-done, at least for a couple of years, which gives us time to develop a vaccine.

A number of studies are ongoing in humans to answer the question of who has antibodies, how long they last and how protective they are.  Here is what an antibody test can tell us if we could test a majority of our population:
  •  The true infection rate and when 60% of the population has been infected we would have "herd immunity" and a very low incidence going forward.
  • The true mortally rate.  Up until now we have been guessing. If it is much less than regular influenza we can get back to work.
  • Who has antibody and is safe to work and travel
  • Protection of health workers by showing who is at low risk to care for Covid-19 patients.
  • Information about the virus and how it spreads and how contagious it is.
Over 70 test developers are working on a serologic test right now as confirmed by the FDA, with the majority based in China.  According to the LA Times, a company in Irvine, Ca, Biomerica, has shipped samples of its 10-minute disposable serology tests to the Middle East and Europe.

Los Angeles County started testing 1000 randomly selected residents today to see if they have antibody to Covid-19.   Stanford University says they are offering widespread serologic testing but how a doctor or person could access it is still a mystery. 



If we are going to win the war on Covid-19 and protect the population and get this Country back to work, we need a plan.  That plan should not come from cities or states and we won't get the full benefit of testing if it is hap-hazard.  We need the US Government to develop wide-spread testing and roll it out now.  It should be our #1 priority. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
Well put. I’m sure the state Governors would agree. They had to submit competing bids for ventilators and masks, bidding up prices. Will they now need to do same for antibody serology tests ? Hopefully not, because if the federal government won’t take the lead, the new consortium of governors likely will.

Popular posts from this blog

scintillating scotoma

Nothing like experiencing a medical condition first-hand to really help a doctor understand it from the patient's point of view.  After all these years, I had my first (and hopefully last) scintillating scotoma while sitting on the couch playing "words with friends" on my ipad and watching TV.  A scotoma is a partial loss of vision in a normal visual field.  Scintillate is flashing, sparkles.  Put them together and you have moving, flashing sparkles with a blind spot in your eyes.

This visual aura was first described in the 19th century  by a Dr. Hubert Airy who had migraine headaches.  The visual sparks and flashes are in a zig-zag pattern and they can precede a migraine headache or occur without any pain.   The scotoma affects both eyes and closing one or the other does not make it go away.  Sometimes the term "ocular migraine" or "retinal migraine"  are used to describe this phenomenon but these involve only one eye, not both.  The terms are often …

Do Doctors Make Too Much Money?

An article in theNew York Times says the reason health care costs are so high in the United States is because doctors are paid too much. I saw that and my eyes bugged out. I just came home from a meeting with physicians and hospital administrators and the entire meeting was spent discussing the financial challenges physicians face in keeping their doors open to see patients. The goal of this meeting was to keep health services in that community so patients will have someone to care for them. Not a person in the room would agree that the doctors earn too much.

Physicians paid too much? Lets break that down. A doctor spends a minimum of 11 years in education and training after the age of 18. Many are in training for 15 or more years. They are living on student loans and contributing zero to their family's income until the residency years. At that time they earn less than minimum wage if you factor in the 80-100 hour workweek. When a doctor emerges from training (and believe me…