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[Slashdot] - Stanford Begins America's First Large-Scale Test For Coronavirus Antibodies

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"Crowds flock to Santa Clara County test sites to learn if they have antibodies to COVID-19," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, citing long lines of cars forming at three Stanford research sites for the drive-through tests: The 2,500 test slots on Friday and Saturday filled up within hours, as news of the project -- the first large scale study of its type in the U.S. -- spread quickly through the county. The test detects protective antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself. This gives scientists a snapshot of how many people in the county have already been infected, but weren't seriously sick and didn't realize it. And it tells residents whether they carry potentially protective antibodies -- so may be immune to future infection. "This is critical information," said principal investigator Dr. Eran Bendavid, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine with Stanford Health Policy. "We will show the country what to do and how to do it," he said... It can guide public health measures and policies -- showing where the epidemic is heading, when it is safe to lift shelter-in-place restrictions and how far away we are from "herd immunity," when it becomes harder for a virus to spread... This approach, called a "serological test," remains a research tool and is not yet widely available in the United States. Stanford is working on a second test that will be deployed for more widespread use. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is imminent -- "within hours, not days," [California governor] Newsom said.... Meanwhile, a global effort to study antibodies is being coordinated by the World Health Organization. Called Solidarity II, more than a half dozen countries will pool their findings from large-scale testing... It is not yet proven that these antibodies actually provide protection... But there are promising clues that COVID-19 might act like it's closest cousin, the SARS virus, which triggers an immune response that persists for at least three years. In a Chinese study of rhesus monkeys, COVID-19 antibodies protected the animals from a second infection. If protected, people could potentially return to work. There is also the prospect that the antibodies could be used as therapy against the disease. Dozens of companies are working to develop antibody tests, as are researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article notes that United Biomedical Inc will "soon" also provide free antibody testing to all 8,000 residents in Telluride, Colorado, and in some countries in Asia.

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