Emory University develops new blood test to better understand coronavirus immunity

Nation & World News

ATLANTA (WJBF) – Researchers at Emory University have developed a new anti-body blood test to help doctors better understand the coronavirus.

The test is now available for Emory patients, employees and health care workers but Emory will soon roll it out to the broader community, so that you can find out if you ever had the infection.

As the race for a COVID-19 vaccine continues, the FDA has approved a coronavirus vaccine trial at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.

The state health department is also working with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to work on anti-body testing. That’s working with people who’ve had the coronavirus and figuring out if they can catch it again.

A new blood test could determine if a person has anti-bodies to fight COVID-19.

“When a virus infects the body it finds its target cells and enters that cell, hijacks cell machinery to make it’s clones of itself,” says Dr. Aneesh Mehta, Infectious Disease Expert at Emory.

The current swab test can only detect active infections. But doctors say this test will let you know if you were exposed to the coronavirus.

“We are very confident that they did become infected and had COVID-19 whether it was mild, or moderate, severe or very little symptoms at all.”

The immune system creates anti-bodies — small proteins — to fight off diseases like COVID-19.

“Once we find out if it is protective, we can invite the patients and workers back if they want to. We can collect their blood to see how their immune system is responding.”

But having anti-bodies doesn’t mean you are immune from getting re-infected.

“We don’t really know if you test positive, if that means you are protected for future infections,” says Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “Does it having it once means you are protected for the rest of the life or like the flu you can get it every season because it changes?”

The blood tests come back in 24-hours and now, Emory can test 300 people a day but hope to expand to 5,000 tests daily by mid June.

Emory doctors say, unlike the regular COVID-19 test kits, they don’t anticipate a shortage because the re-agents in the anti-body tests are different.

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