CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Antibody testing is becoming more widely available and it could hold the key to determining how many people have been exposed to the coronavirus. The testing is also an effective marketing tool for a local nonprofit.
The Blood Connection saw a huge drop in donations in March when the pandemic began. One of the ways they are enticing people to come back is by offering free COVID-19 antibody testing.
“There certainly has been an increase in interest in general because of the antibody testing,” said Allie Van Dyke, Partnerships and Media Coordinator at the Blood Connection.
She says the testing was a natural step for them.
“We test in house for infectious diseases per the FDA already. So, this wasn’t really an organizational change, and for the donor you won’t even notice the difference at all. You’re just going to go donate blood,” Van Dyke said. “The only difference we are telling you is that in seven business days you are going to see a positive or negative COVID-19 antibody test result in your donor portal."
The donor portal is a system already in place that shows a donor’s results of tests the blood connection already does, like blood pressure and hemoglobin count. Testing began last week, which means the first set of results are already out for some donors.
For the Blood Connection, it is part incentive, part community demand, and part public service.
“If people want to know information about themselves and we can tell them with their blood donation, then we are going to do that,” Van Dyke said.
People are excited about antibodies because it could mean protection in the future.
“Most viruses that individuals will get exposed to the body will mount a typical immune response where it essentially tries to make a photographic memory so in the future if a person is re-exposed your body can very easily fight that off,” said Dr. Lee Biggs, chief medical officer for Trident Health
Scientists are still working to determine how effective antibodies are and to do that they need time.
Lee says to test the theory someone with the antibodies needs to be re-exposed to COVID-19 and not get sick. He says that can’t be done in a laboratory, and we will have to wait and see if there is a second wave of coronavirus in the fall and winter before they can determine how effective the antibodies are.
The testing is done automatically but you can opt out if you want and it is available at all the Blood Connection sites – including the mobile ones.