The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rolled a test that would determine whether or not someone has been infected with coronavirus.
This type of test, which is known as a serology test, looks for antibodies against the new virus in the blood.
Health officials say the test could help scientists understand how widespread the virus is; how many people come into contact with the virus and don’t get sick; and how long patients remain immune after they recover.
This is important because it could allow immune people to leave their homes and return to work and shore up the workforce as well as help healthcare workers determine if they are immune.
The CDC has started administering a coronavirus antibody blood test. Pictured: Medical assistant Evelyn Laolagi conducts a test for COVID-19 at a drive-up testing station in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 6
Three groups will be surveyed: those from hotspots with no symptoms, people from less hard-hit areas and healthcare workers. Pictured: A patient is taken from an ambulance at the Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 2
Scientists can use the tests to understand how widespread the virus is and how long patients remain immune after they recover. Pictured: A patient is wheeled out of an ambulance to Mount Sinai West in New York, April 3
The tests used presently involve a nasal or throat swab, and try to identify the virus’s genetic material to see if someone is currently infected.
This new test requires blood to be collected through a vein, and can only be analyzed in a certified laboratory. It looks to see if someone has ever been exposed and is now immune.
According to The New York Times, three groups will be prioritized for testing, the first being those who were not diagnosed with the virus in hot spots.
This includes areas such as New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US; Louisiana; Michigan and Florida.
The second group will be people around the US from areas that have not been hit as hard by the virus and third group will be health care workers.
‘We’re just starting to do testing and we’ll report out on these very quickly,’ Joe Bresee, deputy incident manager for the CDC’s pandemic response, told reporters.
In the US, there are more than 347,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 10,000 deaths
‘We think the serum studies will be very important to understand what the true amount of infection is out in the community.’
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease experts, told The Daily Show last week that he’s optimistic about antibody tests.
‘[I’m] willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against re-infection,’ he told host Trevor Noah.
‘If this virus acts like every other virus that we know, once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, then you’ll have immunity that will protect you against re-infection.
It comes just days after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first antibody test to Cellex Inc, a medical device company based in North Carolina.
The FDA had previously advised against using antibody tests to diagnose coronavirus because it takes times for antibodies to develop.
But by issuing an EUA, the agency indicates that it believes the benefits outweigh any risks.
‘Based on the totality of scientific evidence available to FDA, it is reasonable to believe that your product may be effective in diagnosing COVID-19,’ FDA chief scientist Denise Hinton wrote in a letter to James Li, the CEO of Cellex.
‘The known and potential benefits of your product when used for diagnosing COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of your product.’
The news comes on the heels of the UK government admitting that COVID-19 antibody tests do not work.
Professor Sir John Bell, from Oxford University, said the testing kits he has examined so far ‘have not performed well’ and ‘none of them would meet the criteria for a good test’.
Additionally, the head of testing at Public Health England also said none of the tests it had evaluated were good enough for public use.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said the tests were not accurate enough on people who had only had mild illnesses.
Worldwide, more than 1.2 million have been infected and more than 74,000 people have been died.
In the US, there are more than 347,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 10,000 deaths.