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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

University of Tennessee Health Science Center weighs in on antibody testing for COVID-19

Testing capability can show just how much COVID-19 has spread and possibly who is immune to the virus.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When it comes to reopening up the economy, some governments are looking to antibody testing for answers to see how much the virus has spread and who is immune. But can it be trusted just yet?

In Memphis, American Esoteric Laboratories was one of the first labs to begin testing for antibodies. AEL didn't get back to interview requests so Local 24 News spoke to a health leader at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) on the significance of this type of testing and where it currently stands.

"Antibodies are some of our oldest immune defenses," Dr. Scott Strome, UTHSC Medical School Executive Dean, explains. "Antibodies actually protect us from things like viruses."

At UTHSC, Dr. Strome said he's asked the lab to make its own antibody test for COVID-19. He said that testing capability can show just how much COVID-19 has spread and possibly who is immune to the virus.

"If it can truly say ‘I've had COVID and I have antibody,’ we're not 100% certain yet those antibodies will be protective against this disease. We believe that they will be. That still needs to be born out experimentally," he said.

Dr. Strome said people should be wary of early tests available for antibodies. According to him, not all tests are specific enough in identifying COVID-19 out of the family of coronaviruses.

"In my perception, that could be very dangerous because you don't want someone going out thinking they're immune to COVID-19 when in fact they're immune to a virus that they may have gotten in childhood or young adulthood," he said.

He said it's important to pay extra attention to test labels.

At UT, the antibody test for COVID-19 is still in its developmental phase. Dr. Strome hopes they can begin tests within the next month or two.

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