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NBC Los Angeles

New Testing for Coronavirus Antibodies May Reveal Extent, Trajectory of Pandemic

A new community surveillance program underway Friday should give local researchers a better idea of just how widespread coronavirus really is and how many people may have had the virus without even knowing it. 

Six locations around LA County o…

A new community surveillance program underway Friday should give local researchers a better idea of just how widespread coronavirus really is and how many people may have had the virus without even knowing it. 

Six locations around LA County on Friday and Saturday will test 1,000 randomly selected residents to determine just how wide-spread the coronavirus outbreak is in our own backyard.

“These people are chosen to be representative of LA County,” Dr. Neeraj Sood, lead researcher of the study at the University of Southern California, said. “The goal is to map the trajectory of the epidemic to figure out how close we are to the end of the epidemic.”

Sood said knowing who has the antibodies in their system already is important because it could lead to what’s called “herd immunity,” and possibly protect those who have not been infected by the virus.

“That slows the spread of the virus and ultimately it leads to the end of the epidemic,” he said.

Dr. Edgar Chavez of the Universal Community Health Center in downtown LA is not part of the study, but he’s watching it closely. 

“What we need to find out is what percentage of the population has this immunity,” Chavez said.

He shared what the testing kit looks like up close.

“So the kit itself contains the cassette, you put in the blood, the solution and then it runs the solution up,” Chavez explained.

A simple pin prick, like a diabetic test, can determine if someone has what’s called the IGG antibody. If they do, it means they’ve not only had the novel coronavirus, but they’ve also fully recovered from it. 

The two-day survey across the county isn’t intended to replace testing for the virus itself, but LA County health leaders hope it will give more insight into the spread among those who may not even realize they it to begin with, and possibly reduce anxiety.

“I’m sure you want to know whether you have these antibodies or not. Once a validated test is there, I would love for everyone to be able to use that test, not just participants in our research study,” Sood said. 

The testing is expected to continue for several months, with every result one step closer to knowing when the pandemic will end.