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UW ramps up for ‘fantastic’ COVID-19 antibody test

Blood test in lab
Greg Pepper, manager of the UW Medicine Virology Lab, works on a diagnostic blood test designed to detect COVID-19 antibodies. (UW Medicine Photo)

The University of Washington School of Medicine’s Virology Lab is reporting encouraging results from trial runs of a new test from Abbott Laboratories that detects the antibodies created by people who have had COVID-19, whether they knew they had it or not.

“This is a really fantastic test,” Keith Jerome, who leads UW Medicine’s virology program, told reporters today. He said UW’s lab could process 4,000 samples per day starting next week, and conceivably ramp up to 14,000 samples per day within a couple of weeks.

The test will be made available through health care providers, in medical clinics or perhaps through workplaces. It analyzes blood that’s drawn from patients, and looks for the telltale antibodies that a body’s immune system creates to defend against the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

Epidemiologists say knowing who has had the virus will be key to tracking the true spread of COVID-19, and giving assurances to people who are returning to school and work — particularly in front-line jobs ranging from first responders and health care workers to grocery store clerks.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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