Understanding who has already been exposed to the novel coronavirus 2019 and its resulting respiratory disease, COVID-19, and survived, is an important part of understanding the pandemic for medical professionals.
Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started recruiting volunteers for a study to try and determine how many Americans who do not have a COVID-19 diagnosis have already been exposed to the virus. The study will use a test to detect antibodies in the subjects’ blood that indicate the person has already had COVID-19.
“Researchers must act quickly to learn about the exposures and immunity in the general population,” the NIH wrote in its release. “This can be done by studying peoples’ blood serum to find those with antibodies to the virus. This knowledge can help in current and future pandemics. In this study, researchers want to find people who have anti-SARS-COV2 antibodies but no known exposure or illness.”
Abbott (No. 10 on DiversityInc 2019 Top 50 Companies for Diversity) has been on the forefront of developing tests, from ones that take only five minutes to its third COVID-19 test. Abbott’s newest test is a lab-based serology blood test for the detection of the specific antibody that identifies if a person has had the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We’re significantly scaling up our manufacturing for antibody testing and expect to ship close to 1 million tests to U.S. customers this week and 4 million of the antibody tests during April,” the company wrote in a statement.
However, the wealthiest people in the world are the ones with the most access to the antibody tests so far. The residents and staff of wealthy cities such as Telluride, Colorado and Fisher Island in Miami all received the coveted antibody tests.
Business Insider reported that in late March, United Biomedical Inc. gave out 8,000 antibody tests for everyone in Telluride, long before they were available in certain places.
Fisher Island, an exclusive island off the coast of Florida that is only accessible by boat, purchased thousands of rapid blood test kits from the University of Miami Health System (UHealth) for its residents and employees, according to the Miami Herald.
“This is what the Fisher Island residents wanted,” Lisa Worley, a spokesperson for UHealth, told the Miami Herald.
But Abbott does plan to scale up the making of the antibody tests significantly over the coming months. The company plans to ship 20 million antibody tests in the U.S. in June and beyond, according to a press release.
“Antibody testing has the potential to unlock a lot of unknowns about this novel virus,” John Hackett, divisional vice president of Applied Research and Technology, Diagnostics, Abbott, said in a statement. “Having tests that can work in different healthcare settings is critical to our understanding of the virus and to helping give healthcare providers answers they need about their patients.”