Testing the COVID-19 antibody test

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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OSAGE BEACH, Mo. (KY3) - At times, it can be rather tight quarters in the Camden County jail.

”We’re taking every step we can to make sure that they [inmates and staff] are, in fact, safe and secure in our facility,” said Sheriff’s Captain Chris Twitchel.

Safety is why the sheriff’s office bought nearly 100 COVID-19 antibody tests this spring, for about $1,400.

”Of all the people we’ve tested, everybody tested negative,” said Corrections Lieutenant Brian Vinson.

That means the 28 people who were tested likely haven’t gotten the novel coronavirus so far.

Twitchel wanted to know if the tests actually worked.

”We saw you walking through the hallway, and we needed you to be our victim,” Twitchel mused to KY3/KSPR’s Andrew Havranek.

Havranek agreed to the test.

It’s easy, and similar to a blood sugar check for diabetes. You sterilize your finger, it gets pricked by a needle, and a small sample of blood goes on a cartridge. Two drops of a buffer solution start the test.

COVID-19 Antibody Test
COVID-19 Antibody Test(KY3)

Then, you wait anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Like a pregnancy test, the cartridge will show lines if the antibodies are present a person’s blood.

There’s a line next to the “C” meaning - it’s a valid test.

Then there are two other sections, IgM and IgG. Havranek had a line next to the IgG marker on two tests.

”The test that was done there, that you had done shows whether you had IgM, in other words, the infection was more recent, or perhaps current. Then, the IgG would indicate a past infection,” said Joanne Reed, a Laboratory Manager with Lake Regional Hospital.

Reed said knowing if you have antibodies is not a replacement for social distancing and wearing a mask. Itt’s too early to say if you’re “immune.”

”Until we know that for sure, I think there are a lot of questions about what does it do for us other than to say that we’ve had a past exposure,” Reed said.

Still, Twitchel is glad the tests the sheriff’s office bought actually work.

”We were really happy that what we’ve been doing is working and it is going to help test for it when we need it to test,” Twitchel added.

Scientists are still researching to see if the antibodies provide a person immunity from becoming infected with COVID-19 a second time, and if they do, it is unknown how long that immunity lasts.

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