DETROIT – Beaumont Health announced Monday that it is launching “America’s largest” serological testing study to help answer questions surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and potentially help treat patients battling the virus.
According to Beaumont, serological blood testing detects antibodies the body creates to fight an infection. They are working to find out who has the antibodies and how the antibodies operate.
“In the case of COVID-19, antibodies might develop as soon as 3 to 6 days after infection,” reads a statement from the health system. “Even after the recovery from COVID-19, antibodies remain. In many other infections, antibodies offer immunity against reinfection. The study will begin to answer whether COVID-19 antibodies offer any protection post infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 25 to 50% of people with COVID-19 might not show symptoms. However, those individuals could still spread the disease to others."
Beaumont said this serological testing study will identify the number of people across its 38,000 employees and thousands of affiliates who have COVID-19 antibodies who never reported any symptoms.
Beaumont also said the initial study will focus solely on the Beaumont community of inpatients and the employees and affiliates of the health system, and that participation is voluntary. They want to use data collected through this study as part of their own return-to-work process and hope it could “serve as a model” for how other businesses get their employees back to work.
The health system noted that this test has not been reviewed by the FDA and results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose infection or to determine infection status.
Here are the questions they are seeking to answer:
- How susceptible are health care workers to acquiring COVID-19?
- What is the relationship between antibody levels to symptoms or the severity of the disease?
- Does our antibody response increase or decrease over time and how long will it last?
- Will COVID-19 antibodies protect you from a new COVID-19 infection?
“In addition to answering key questions on infection spread and the percentage of total asymptomatic cases in a community, we intend to relieve anxiety through a better understanding of the spread of the infection across Beaumont Health,” Beaumont Health Vice President for Research and Director of the Beaumont Research Institute Richard Kennedy, Ph.D., said.
Long term, the study aims to:
- Determine how serological testing can supplement swab-based molecular testing which looks for evidence of active infection
- Identify individuals with high antibody levels as potential donors for plasma transfusions to treat others infected with COVID-19
- Prioritize people for future vaccinations
- Help people get back to work by establishing testing protocols and a better understanding of COVID-19 immunity