UPMC researchers developing coronavirus immunity test

UPMC researchers developing coronavirus immunity test

PITTSBURGH — Researchers at UPMC are working to develop a test for coronavirus immunity.

The blood test being developed at Pitt and in other labs across the country could identify people with little to no risk of being infected by the virus, and emergency room doctors like Allegheny Health Network physician Dr. Arvind Venkat said identifying those people is critical.

“That means that those individuals, who have immunity can then go back to work, or can be part of front line life sustaining, businesses that we all need because they are less likely to get sick from this virus in the future,” said Venkat.

Content Continues Below

They're also exploring if the blood from immune patients could be used to treat infected patients.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

UPMC said today it's exploring the use of blood tests to determine if a person has antibodies. That test could indicate if a person already had infection, even without symptoms and recovered.

The immunity tests first surfaced at a lab in Germany, where researchers suggested that those who are immune could then be issued vaccination certificates which would allow them to return to work.

Venkat said the test will likely be developed quicker than a vaccine. He said the technology is readily available and a number of labs around the world are working on it, but there may be limitations.

“The real question is going to be how widespread this testing can be, a lot of the limitations has been on the actual material to perform the tests. So, it’s not a new technology, but it’s just a matter of do we have enough materials and accuracy of the test to roll it out in a large number,” Venkat said.

As researchers work on these immunity test there are still a lot of unknowns. For instance, can you get the virus a second time? And how long does immunity last?

Researchers are hoping clinical trials on the will ultimately answer all of these questions.

Pa. Department of health coronavirus update (4/6/20)