Local Company Looks At COVID-19 Antibody Test In A Different Way

Jul 20, 2020

A Newport company has developed what it says is a more accurate test for COVID-19 antibodies. It gives you a percentage of how protected your body is if exposed to the virus again. But even that company - Ethos Laboratories - says nobody knows how long the antibodies last.

The Tru-Immune test allows users to determine how effective their immune systems are at neutralizing or blocking COVID-19. Ethos says this is different than other tests that are "pre-fabricated" to detect certain binding antibodies like IgG, IgM and IgA that don't provide information about protective immunity.

Here's how it works: Tru-Immune uses a protein to attach to a healthy cell in a patient's blood to measure the current immune response. Once it's attached it reprograms the healthy cell to produce more viral cells. The test then determines the level of immunity from 0-100 percent.

The Tru-Immune test is a neutralization test which looks at your body's ability to protect healthy cells from getting infected by the virus. Laboratory Operations Manager Beth Hawes says regular antibody tests can't do that.

"It can't differentiate and it also can't tell you if you have any level of protection agains the virus, just if you have antibodies," she says. "So the neutralization test is actually able to give you a semi quantitative value that's going to tell you your ability to be protected if you were exposed again."

Ethos has partnered with ARCpoint Labs to collect samples across the country.

Hawes admits nobody knows how long antibody protection will last. A new British study finds it may only last a few months.

Ethos would like to identify so-called "super donors." One San Antonio woman has given plasma seven times which has helped 20 patients. But even one donation from recovered COVID-19 patients could help with convalescent plasma or vaccine development.

How will the test help if the protection doesn't last beyond a couple of months? Abbot's global viral surveillance head told Bloomberg she's seeing cardiovascular and lung effects, even in people who were asymptomatic. Mary Rodgers says until we understand who's at risk for those complications, we need to be keeping track of who actually had it.

Ethos Laboratories, at 29 East 6th St. in Newport, developed Tru-Immunity for COVID-19 but continues doing toxicology screening.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU