University of Arizona to start antibody testing this week

Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 5:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona filed for emergency use authorization from the FDA for their COVID-19 antibody test Monday, as they make hundreds of thousands of the tests.

The very first tests will be available for portions of first responders, health care workers and the public in Pima County.

“The antibody test is to measure whether or not someone has made an immune response against the virus,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, University of Arizona College of Medicine.

The nose swab tests can tell if someone is currently positive for COVID-19, but the antibody test can tell if they have ever been exposed to it. Researchers think this will paint a clearer picture of just how wide-spread COVID-19 is in the state. The University of Arizona said some estimates show as many as 50 percent of people exposed to COVID-19 have few to no symptoms.

In their first round of anti-body testing, the University will be able to test 1,500 medical professionals like nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and dentists—as well as 1,500 first responders and 1,500 members of the general public. They said first responders and medical professionals will have to show proof of their status. Tests will be first-come, first serve, and people just have to sign up online.

The method the University researcher are using is a blood draw. They said it is more accurate than the finger-prick method.

“If we say someone is positive, by our estimates it’s only going to be about a one in a million or so who are actually not,” said Bhattacharya.

They will start testing these groups of people as soon as Thursday, but come May 7, the University will be working toward expanding testing to 250,000 medical professionals in the state—including psychologists and massage therapists. The state has given UArizona $3.5 million dollars to do this.

“We’ve been able to identify sites in each of our 15 counties that will help us with this effort,” said Dr. Daniel Derksen, University of Arizona Health Sciences.

Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement when the partnership was announced that antibody testing is “not a cure-all,”but can get us “to the other side of this pandemic more quickly.”

UArizona is also planning to test students and faculty, but they said how they will do that is still being finalized. Funding will have to come from private donors.

Sonora Quest labs are also offering anti-body testing, prescribed by a healthcare provider, at more than 20 locations across the state.

To learn more about the testing, or to sign up for a test, click here.

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