Researchers at Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota are developing antibody tests that would tell whether a person has had and recovered from COVID-19. The tests would help public health officials understand the scope of the outbreak and identify when people have recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer at risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
Additionally, it is important to have a better understanding of how many people have been infected, even if they have recovered. Knowing the true number of individuals who have been infected with COVID-19 would allow us to determine a more accurate case fatality rate.
FDA approval is not needed for this test; however, laboratories that are working on these tests must go through a very rigorous verification process to make sure the tests they’re offering provide proper results. Clinicians will be able to order this for individuals who they think would be helped with the results, to either guide return to work decisions or further quarantining. The ability to know who has the virus and who doesn’t could provide critical information for people and entire regions and could allow people to safely return to public spaces and to help with relief efforts.
There are also convalescent plasma treatment trials taking place. As the country waits for antivirals to be developed and deployed, there are bridging therapies in the works. So, if the antibody test works and individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 are identified, health care providers can collect their plasma, make sure that it has the antibodies, and then use that plasma to treat acutely ill patients. It provides somebody else’s antibodies to ill patients who don’t have an immune response mounted yet, and these antibodies would essentially help to fight off the virus.