Over at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, researchers have been working hard and fast to come up with ways to combat COVID-19. And according to a report, they’ve already developed an antibody test for the coronavirus. Even better? They’re sharing the directions online so labs all over the world can eventually also make the test.
Antibody tests can show what percentage of the population has been infected—even if the people are currently infected. This can allow researchers to screen health care workers and identify those immune to the disease. Those with immunity would be able to provide care without the risk of being infected, said the report’s authors. The researchers are already using the test at Mount Sinai Hospital to see how quickly people develop antibodies to COVID-19.
Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Mount Sinai school in Manhattan, says initial findings show that humans have no natural immunity to COVID-19, which would help explain why it spreads so quickly. Once the antibody sets in, however, humans do become protected. Dr. Krammer also says that at this early stage in the research, “there is no evidence that people can lose their immunity and become re-infected.” Krammer told Science magazine that labs could easily scale the test to “screen a few thousand people a day” for antibodies.
In the future, the antibody test could help identify recovered patients who could then donate their SARS-CoV-2 antibody-rich serum to help treat critically ill patients. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said state health officials were testing the process of taking plasma from someone who has been infected, processing it, and injecting the antibodies into a sick person to stimulate their immune system. Researchers are hoping that antibodies in the blood can treat people with COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has approved this particular trial, which will begin soon on a “compassionate care basis,” Cuomo said.
UPDATE: The FDA has approved the first test for novel coronavirus antibodies issuing an emergency authorization to biotech corporation Cellex today.