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U of Memphis researcher checking blood samples, concerned about Delta variant

Researcher said about 26% of adult population has no antibodies from either vaccine or naturally.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
A University of Memphis researcher tracking COVID-19 in the community is concerned about how the Delta variant will impact us.

By using leftover blood samples collected from doctors' offices in Shelby County, the researcher is able to measure antibody protection of the general public. 

"It's kind of alarming," said Dr. Xinhua Yu, Associate Professor, University of Memphis.

Yu was talking about the number of people still vulnerable to COVID-19. His research found as of the end of June, 26% of Shelby County residents were still vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. 

Yu said that means one-in-four Shelby County adults have no type of COVID antibodies, whether its antibodies coming from either the vaccine or natural infection.

And in a few zip codes, such as 38107, 38125 and 38134, Yu said his research shows more than 50% of residents are considered vulnerable to infection. 

Of particular concerns said Yu, 17% percent of those over 65 were still considered vulnerable.

Yu said most new cases are the Delta variant.

"From patient point of view you don't need to know it's it's Delta or not, you're just infected," said Yu.

Yu tests about 300 random samples a month that come from a commercial lab. 

On a positive note, Yu said the level of antibody protection in the community has increased significantly from when he began testing in February. He said currently more than 70%have some level of protection.

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"We may have an increase of cases a little bit and slightly, but I don't think we will have as big a problem like last year, after all almost half the adult population has a vaccination," said Yu.

He added, those unvaccinated  and those who are vaccinated and immunocompromised need to be cautious.

You said on a positive note, every month samples  show community protection increases, just don't ask when he thinks we might get to that four letter word.

" I don't feel herd immunity is such a term we should use a lot," said Yu, "We still have cases coming and there are people not vaccinate, and the virus will find them."