Important Updates on Antibody testing and How COVID-19 Came to the USA.

 Updates on topics this blog’s author thinks are important

Antibody testing for COVID-19. 

Antibodies are proteins in the blood that document that someone has been exposed to the COVID–19 virus and has developed immunity. This is important because tests for COVID-19 antibodies identify all people who been exposed to the virus, not just people who are acutely infected and shedding virus [like the current swab (PCR) test]. People who have antibodies should be protected from future infections with the virus or from spreading the virus.

There are now at least 10 different companies who are developing antibody tests. This includes large US diagnostic companies as well as several that developed antibody tests in China during the early days of the pandemic. As these tests become widely available they will provide a much clearer view of the scope of the pandemic and when life may return to normal.

Telluride Colorado, Courtesy United Biomedical.

There is now a report that Telluride Colorado is antibody testing its entire population to help people return to normal life. This test was developed by a company called United Biomedical in China and validated to be accurate in testing there. Since individuals who are immune to COVID-19 can not get re-infected they can lead the way in normalizing activity. As I’ve stated in this blog many times antibody testing will be the most important thing we can do to understand the scope of the current infection as well as the likelihood for further rounds of COVID–19.

Mutations in the COVID–19 virus.

Some interesting news on mutations in the COVID–19 virus. Mutations are small changes in the genetic material of the virus that can alter viral proteins. This can change viral characteristics such as the ability of the virus to infect people.

COVID-19 with “spike” protein in red.

There was initial indication that two types of mutated strains exist in COVID-19 called S and L. The mutations that created these strains altered the viral “spike” protein that binds to human cells and initiates infection. It was reported that the L strain might be easier to spread but cause less severe illness.

Further analysis of COVID-19 from different areas of the world at different timepoints has now allowed scientists to track the spread of the virus based on which mutations occurred where over time. In fact, detailed maps documenting the spread are now available for both the US and EU. These maps definitively show that all of the virus infections in the US initially came from Wuhan/China. Click on the map below to see the spread into the US from China.

Map of COVID-19 spread base on mutations in its genetic material. Click on the map to see the spread of the virus.

It appears that the virus is making 24 mutations every 12 months; a rate similar to Flu, Ebola and other pandemic viruses. This suggests there is nothing unique about this virus and the pandemic should run a similar course to other viral infections.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

5 thoughts on “Important Updates on Antibody testing and How COVID-19 Came to the USA.

  1. are you saying that a large number of people could be exposed to the virus, develop no symptoms or so mild that they don’t worry, then test negative for the covid-19 infection and yet have the antibodies from a less than infecting exposure? If so, what percentage of the population would that be?

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    1. Yes. In China, overall, 40% of so of individuals were found to be antibody positive to COVID-19, but reported no symptoms of infection and were never found to be positive for viral RNA by PCR (Swab) testing. The last negative was likely because they were never tested by PCR since they were not sick. These individuals developed the same degree of immunity, however, as symptomatic patients. Therefore, it was simply a subclinical infection.

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  2. Because neither my sister nor I have ever had the flu, this blog makes me wonder if we’d have antibodies to it nonetheless. (We’re in our middle 60’s). We’ve been exposed many times—perhaps we have just been asymptomatic like those found to have antibodies to COVID-19 who never seemed to have had the illness.

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