Health officials: Antibody tests could help the COVID-19 fight

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health experts say a COVID-19 antibody test would help reopen society but its not clear when this kind of test would be available in Shelby County.

Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter says the conversations to get this kind of testing locally have begun.

“We are looking to the state health department to give us guidance on what’s the most appropriate test at the given time,” Dr. Haushalter said.

WREG reached out to state health officials but have yet to hear back.

Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an Infectious Disease Specialist for Baptist Memorial Hospital, says those who recover from the virus have antibodies as well as the people who had it and didn’t show symptoms.

He says an antibody test would provide local health officials with some pertinent information.

“[It] would not only be able to screen patients to see if they have had it but also test thousands of people in a city and say, ah ha! X percentage have already been infected.” Dr. Threlkeld said.

The information from the test would give medical leaders a better understanding of how far the virus has spread, help with treatment options and tell us who can re-enter society.

“It just takes a while to generate a test we have confidence in,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

Companies are offering antibody tests but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave emergency use authorization to one company.

Dr. Haushalter said she hopes there will be better options to help people by telling how many antibodies they actually have. She says it could be within the next month.

Right now, health experts are dealing with tests that aren’t accurate enough because COVID-19 antibodies look very similar to other antibodies that cause other illnesses such as the common cold.

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