Emory has come up with a test that shows the immune system has fought off COVID-19, known as coronavirus antibodies.
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Emory has come up with a test that shows the immune system has fought off COVID-19, known as coronavirus antibodies.

Emory has come up with a test that looks for signs the body's immune system has fought off coronavirus, known as coronavirus antibodies.GPB's Grant Blankenship reports on Emory's new diagnostic antibody blood test for COVID-19.

For now, the test, which requires drawing a small vial of blood, is only for patients and workers in the Emory Healthcare system, but Dr. Aneesh Mehta of the Emory University School of Medicine said he expects the test to be rolled out more widely by summer as tracing the path of the coronavirus continues.

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“The test will indicate whether somebody has developed antibodies to the COVID-19 virus,” said John Roback, MD, PhD, executive vice-chair for clinical operations in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and medical director of Emory Medical Laboratories.

Roback emphasized that the presence of antibodies is no guarantee of immunity.

Antibodies are small proteins created by the immune system in the process of fighting off a disease and develop days after a person has been infected and can potentially help a person build immunity to protect against being re-infected.

The nasal swab tests that recently became available only tested for the presence of active COVID-19 infection and could not detect potential immunity.

“The results from these antibody tests will have important implications for determining our next steps in responding to this pandemic,” Roback said.

Mehta also said collected antibodies could become medicine.  

“We do believe antibodies are very good potential options for therapy, and we hope to have good data and potentially good therapy in the next several weeks,” he said.

Mehta said he hopes any potential shortages in the chemicals needed for the test will be short lived.