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Video: Antibody Testing Will Help Understand The Real Extent Of The COVID-19 Pandemic
Antibody testing will help understand the real extent of the COVID-19 pandemic
Scientists regularly write and say that we do not know how many people have suffered from COVID-19. People with mild forms of the disease are often not diagnosed, but they can infect others. The emergence of tests for detecting antibodies in the blood against the new coronavirus will help to know how often people get sick. Let's figure out why this is so important.
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Scientists regularly write and say that we do not know how many people have suffered from COVID-19. People with mild forms of the disease are often not diagnosed, but they can infect others. The emergence of tests to detect antibodies in the blood against the new coronavirus will help to find out how often people get sick. Science journalist Gretchen Vogel in Science explains why this is important.
Tests based on the detection of an RNA virus cannot be sufficient to fully understand the picture of a pandemic and develop the most effective strategy against it. The problem is that they can only detect the virus in those who are infected. Tests that detect antibodies can help find out more than just who is sick right now. They provide information and illness from the past.
Various companies are in a hurry to develop and release their tests for antibodies to the new coronavirus. Some tests have already gone through small studies and have been approved for use. But now scientists still do not have mass research data that, for example, could show what percentage of Wuhan residents are immune to the disease. This will change as tests become more readily available.
Vogel spoke with Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine. Together with colleagues, he developed a test to determine antibodies to the new virus. Scientists have made available to the public the complete information that is required to produce these tests. Kramer told how such analyzes will help scientists and people.
Potentially, an antibody test can show which recovered serum can be used to treat critically ill patients. Its other purpose may be to identify people who already have strong immunity against the new coronavirus. They could be actively involved in the fight against the pandemic.
Mass detection of antibodies to the new coronavirus will give scientists more accurate data that will help model the spread of infection and the course of a pandemic. It can more adequately, in comparison with PCR, determine the number of people who have recovered who have received immunity after mild forms of the disease.
An example of a practical matter that antibody tests can help would be school reopening after quarantine. Children are known to be rarely diagnosed with COVID-19. However, the incidence rate among children is poorly known, as there is reason to expect that they often carry the disease in a mild or asymptomatic form. Determination of antibodies to the virus could give an answer to what percentage of children or school students really got sick.
Determining the concentration of antibodies in the blood can show scientists how long immunity to the new coronavirus lasts. This is essential information required to develop an effective vaccine and immunization schedule.