Antibody tests for COVID-19 are starting to show a clearer picture of the diseases which has affected many parts for the U.S.
However, don’t be confused and think that these tests will prove immunity to the disease. Experts say that a positive antibody test doesn’t mean that some people should stop social distancing.
According to Neeraj Sood, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California says that “there is not going to be a magic wand that will say you can be out of this crisis”.
Neeraj Sood conducted an antibody testing on 863 adults living in LA Country. Each and every participant of the study was selected in order to reflect the population of the county.
The study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal but it’s the first of this kind of study which will show the potentially true numbers of COVID-19.
According to Sood’s research, approximately 4% of the LA County population has COVID-19 antibodies, which means that at some point they either had an active infection or recovered from it. Experts believe that a person who had it, can’t immediately become infected again, but they are still not sure how long will that protection last.
The 4% in this study actually translates to about 320 thousand people in LA County – which is a lot more than the initial number of tests that were conducted in early April, which is about eight thousand.
Even though the USC findings are high, it can also mean that the LA County is only in the early stages of the epidemic.
According to Sood, if only 4% of the adults have been infected, that means that the remaining 96% of the population can still become infected. He also estimates that it will require at least 60% of the population to have coronavirus antibodies, before the herd immunity can be established. This basically means that a large enough percentage of people will be immune to the disease which will make it harder to spread.
At the moment we can’t tell for sure whether the 4% will be the same for all parts of the country although similar antibody tests have been conducted in Santa Clara County in Northern California which predict that antibodies were found between 2.5 and 4.2 percent of the population.
What do COVID-19 antibodies mean?
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, that means that he/she was infected at some point.
Virologists warn that a positive COVID-19 antibody test doesn’t necessary mean immunity and that you no longer can be infected. Mixing those two is dangerous.
Time is the only thing which will determine if our immunity will last for several weeks, months, years or even longer.
There are unknown facts and that means that the public shouldn’t solely rely on the antibodies in order to resume normal activity.
According to the research results from an USC study, the death rate of COVID-19 might even be lower. When scientists calculate in the other additional cases, those that didn’t show any symptoms, the mortality rate drops to below 0.2%. That’s because the overall number of patients is much bigger and that further reduces the percentage of people who died.
Experts at USC are planning to repeat the test every few weeks, with different residents from LA County in order to gather more data and to have a clearer picture for the public health officials on how the virus spreads.
Antibody aren’t enough to reopening the country. They are just one part and must be further supported with diagnostic tests and contact tracing.
Dr. Peter Hotez says that it will be really useful to have system in every major city which will enable you to get quickly tested at the workplace and then to have another system that will be in charge of contact tracing.