A wave of new antibody tests for COVID-19 are expected to follow from research like “New blood tests for antibodies could show true scale of coronavirus pandemic“, published today in Science. This is exceedingly good news.
From the piece (emphasis mine):
A new recipe could offer labs an alternative to waiting for or buying commercial tests. Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and his colleagues posted a preprint yesterday describing a SARS-CoV-2 antibody test they have developed, and directions for replicating it. It’s one of the first such detailed protocols to be widely distributed, and the procedure is simple enough, he says, that other labs could easily scale it up “to screen a few thousand people a day,” and quickly amass more data on the accuracy and specificity of the test. Together with increased availability of commercial tests, that means some important answers about immunity to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, may be available soon, he says.
There is strong evidence that such tests can identify those who have already survived the disease. Experts suggest that immunity from a specific Corona virus lasts at least several months.
The current research strongly suggests that these tests successfully avoid false positives. The tests are also able to identify patients that have currently active infection, as opposed to those who are no longer contagious.
This antibody testing approach allows us to actually measure and identify those who are no longer at risk from COVID-19. That, in turn, provides vital guidance about how we manage the course of this disease. One of the aspects of this pandemic that we’re not talking about and that our media is not reporting is the herd immunity that begins to build several weeks after the onset of the wave.
It is true that we’ll see a spike in deaths about 15-20 days after infection (it takes that long for susceptible victim to succumb to the ravages of the disease). It is also true that we’ll see a MUCH LARGER spike in the number of people with immunity a longer period after the infection (I hear numbers like 20-30 days). Remember that there are likely to be about 98-99 people with immunity to COVID-19 for each person who dies. The huge win from such tests is that they provide an easy, reliable, and affordable way to identify those people so that they can resume normal activities — without fear.
Health-care professionals who get the green light from such tests are then freely able to treat victims without fear. People who test positive can freely interact with the public in workplaces like bars, restaurants, and schools. People who test positive do not need to be isolated or quarantined.
Antibody testing can therefore provide concrete and accurate guidance about when the draconian restrictions currently in place can be lifted and for whom.