CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Early results from the COVID-19 antibody test conducted last week show two percent of tested MUSC employees had the antibodies.
Testing of MUSC staff began last Monday. These early results contain 920 tests in the first week.
Antibodies generally make you immune to diseases and researchers hope if you have the COVID-19 antibodies you will be protected from another infection. However, because the coronavirus is so new, scientists say it is too early to tell if a positive antibody test means you are immune.
Sometimes antibodies are ineffective at killing a virus, as is the case with HIV. In rare cases, small amounts of antibodies make the situation worse.
“I do think there is a very high suspicion that the presence of these antibodies should protect you,” said MUSC doctor Danielle Scheurer.
Even if the antibodies are ineffective at creating immunity, researchers say the data can still be useful for modeling the spread of the virus.
“There is still ongoing debate about how much asymptomatic infection is running around that we don’t know about,” Scheurer said. “I think this will give us a very good idea of how many people in our community has had COVID-19.”
While MUSC is holding testing for health care workers and first responders, several other offices are offering the service to anyone. Dr. Barron Nason is the owner of NasonCare - one such facility able to do antibody testing. Nason says there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
“Antibodies are the heart of immunity,” Nason said. “What we do not know is how soon we develop antibodies after having the COVID-19 infection and how much protection that affords us going forward. It’s through the testing we are doing today that will we will learn the answers to these questions.
Other clinics have started antibody testing, only to have to shutdown within a few days because of high demand. Nason says he has all the materials he needs to make sure testing can continue.
“We are working closely with Abbott who is the manufacturer of the test as well as LabCorp who is the reference lab who is servicing the test and at this point we have a very large volume testing capability,” Nason said. “It’s not do we have the capability to test, it’s simply the more volume the longer it will take to process these tests.”
If you want a test you must have had a confirmed case of COVID-19, had symptoms, or been in contact with someone who had the disease.
While only time will tell if the antibodies will create immunity, Nason says even partial protection would be a win.
“We are hopeful that if there is a second wave of viral infection that if you have antibodies and do contract that your disease the second time will be less severe and hopefully be a shorter duration,” Nason said.
If you want a test and qualify, all you have to do is call NasonCare and set up an appointment.