VDH launching antibody testing project


VIRGINIA (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health is launching a project to estimate what percentage of adults in the commonwealth have coronavirus antibodies.

Over the last few months, we’ve talked a lot about COVID-19 antibodies. They give people and doctors evidence of past infection and can help identify plasma donors, track outbreaks, and more.

However, doctors still have questions — like do antibodies give you immunity from re-infection? If you get re-infected, will you be contagious?

To help answer those questions, the Virginia Department of Health has launched the “Virginia Coronavirus Serology Project.”

Dr. David Trump, a public health physician specialist with the Virginia Department of Health Office of Epidemiology, said, “The purpose is to really get an estimate about what percent of the adult population has antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Trump says the plan is to give antibody tests to 5,000 adults across the commonwealth. They will rely on existing labs and hospital facilities.

“We really need to know for communication with the public and also for healthcare planning what percent of that at-risk population still has had no experience with COVID-19 so we have better information for planning for the next several months,” said Trump.

He says the testing isn’t perfect — it does not include children and may underrepresent uninsured and underserved populations because of a lack of access to care.

“There’s no single way to do a virology project of this magnitude,” said Trump. “But we do feel that the results of what’s being conducted here in Virginia has some strengths. We are seeking to be representative by age groups and race, ethnicities, again statewide and at the regional level.”

The goal is to have results by the end of July.

Trump says if you do test positive for coronavirus antibodies, take the same precautions recommended by the CDC.

Sentara announced Thursday it would join the project and collect 1,000 samples in the eastern region of Virginia. Eligible participants will be identified at outpatient clinics during existing patient visits — other than that, there is no other enrollment opportunity for this project.

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