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UVA researchers developing COVID-19 antibody test

Researchers say the tests could hold clues to COVID-19 exposure and immunity.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — As health officials work to overcome5 the coronavirus pandemic, there’s growing hope that our blood may help them find solutions moving forward.

Researchers at the University of Virginia are working to develop an antibody test for COVID-19.

Dr. Bill Petri, an Infectious Diseases Professor at UVA said their hope is the antibody tests may provide researchers with a better idea of how much COVID-19 has spread throughout the country and its immunity.

Petri cited an antibody test being conducted in Santa Clara, California that may indicate the number of COVID-19 cases is much higher than the numbers reported by health departments.

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“What we know now is probably only about half of people that had this infection had any symptoms, so it’ll give you that information that we probably otherwise wouldn’t know,” said Petri.

Petri said they anticipate the tests will reveal key information about the virus.

“Number one: having some idea, are you relatively immune to being re-infected will be one thing. What we think is that if you have antibodies, you’re going to be immune to being infected again for at least a year, and that’s based on what we understand about another coronavirus disease (SARS),” said Petri.

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The second piece of information they hope the tests will reveal is how many people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19.

Petri said there’s a big challenge in running antibody tests for the virus.

“We have to be careful that we’re measuring antibodies against the COVID-19 coronavirus and not the older coronaviruses. That’s the biggest challenge with these antibody tests,” said Petri.

Petri said UVA’s medical research team has collaborated with INDOOR Biotechnologies in Charlottesville to develop a locally-produced antibody test for COVID-19.

UVA expects to have its own antibody test up and running within the next one to two weeks.

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