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Experts Identify Steps to Expand and Improve Antibody Tests in COVID-19 Response

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 26 Jun 2020
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Image: An undated scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects), also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab and isolated from a patient in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of NIAID)
Image: An undated scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects), also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab and isolated from a patient in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of NIAID)
More than 300 scientists and clinicians from the federal government, industry and academia have published a report of their conclusions and recommendations on COVID-19 serology studies.

In May, the group had gathered for the online COVID-19 Serology Studies workshop to discuss the role of serology testing in understanding and responding to the COVID-19 public health crisis and to explore strategies to address key scientific knowledge opportunities and gaps in the emerging field. The workshop was convened by an interagency working group comprised of experts from the US Department of Health and Human Services, including scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), parts of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the Department of Defense. Attendees assessed efforts to better understand the implications of serology test results, to produce and validate test kits, and to quantify undetected cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The attendees recommended that additional research is needed to determine if and to what extent a positive antibody test means a person may be protected from re-infection with SARS-CoV-2. They emphasized that until such data is available, serology tests should not be used as a stand-alone tool to make decisions about personal safety related to SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Researchers are now pursuing studies in humans and in animal models to better understand SARS-CoV-2 immunity. The attendees noted that such understanding could help identify optimal donors of convalescent plasma that potentially could be used to help treat those with severe COVID-19. They also proposed strategies to expand the accuracy and capacity of these tests to distinguish between naturally acquired and vaccine-induced antibodies, which will be critical to evaluating COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The report of their conclusions and recommendations on COVID-19 serology studies has been published online in Immunity.


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