When viruses or bacteria invade the human body, the immune system gets triggered. It produces special molecules called antibodies that bind to viral surface proteins disabling the virus and marking it for destruction by other immune cells.
Even when the viral infection is cleared, these antibodies stay in our bloodstream ready to protect us if the same virus attacks again. These have memory and could remain in our bloodstream for years.
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A blood test to detect these antibodies will help identify people who have already been infected by SARS-CoV-2 and are no longer at risk for developing the disease. The blood test is important for identifying herd immunity.
If enough people in a community have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 then the chances of a sick person infecting someone else is very low. The virus is unable to transmit and infect healthy people. This could prevent a second wave of the epidemic.
People who have already had the virus and are immune would be able to return to work and go back to their normal lives gradually especially the frontline health workers who are desperately needed in hospitals. It will also help doctors find those who can donate part of their blood plasma.
Antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients could help treat new cases. This could provide the first line of defense for people suffering from COVID-19 especially those who are older and much higher risk for complications.
The new antibody test will also help guide vaccine development by measuring antibody levels in infected and recovered patients. Researchers can develop a vaccine that will produce the same immune response. The antibody test kits should only detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and not against other coronaviruses or even viruses of other types.
If not, people might think they are protected against SARS-CoV-2 when in fact they are not. Current blood tests for detecting SARS-CoV-2 can only tell if a person has an active infection. They do not identify people who had the virus and are now recovered.
On the contrary, an antibody test can not identify a person with an active infection. Since the system needs time to produce antibodies, therefore both tests are needed to diagnose a person with the infection.
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