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Tampa couple seeks antibody test after surviving bout with coronavirus

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A couple that survived their bout with COVID-19 is turning to 8 On Your Side for help to find antibody tests that are not yet widely available.

Governor Ron DeSantis said he wants to expands antibody testing in Florida.

Detecting how far the virus has spread and whether someone has possible immunity for the new coronavirus are seen as necessary steps before reopening the state’s economy.

“I did not realize how sick I was with this until I started feeling better,” Linda Oakley-Hankins told 8 On Your Side.

She said her symptoms included high fever, fatigue, a cough and shortness of breath.

Before going with her husband for testing at Raymond James Stadium, she said her pulmonologist Dr. Nathan Do diagnosed her with COVID-19.

“I don’t want to know what situation I’d be in if it weren’t for Doctor Do and I mean that,” Oakley-Hankins said.

Shortly after her doctor wrote her a prescription for hydroxychloroquine and another drug that typically treats gout, she said her symptoms went away.

Her husband Don Hankins tested positive, but did not show symptoms, she added.

“All’s we want to do is have antibody testing so that we can give our plasma to see if it can help somebody else that is much sicker than I was,” Oakley-Hankins said.

She contacted 8 On Your Side frustrated she could not find an antibody test in Tampa, like the one being manufactured by Abacus Pharma International.

“It’s like a diabetic sticking their finger to test their sugar, exact same thing,” Abacus Pharma International CEO Dr. Vincent DeGennaro said. “You get two drops of blood put it on the cartridge, it’s just a piece of plastic and in 15 minutes you get results.”

Dr. DeGennaro said he expects approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week. Vice President Mike Pence referenced API and its production of a rapid test at a White House coronavirus task force briefing a week ago.

In May, Dr. DeGennaro said his company plans to ramp up production into the millions at their South Florida Factory. So far, they’ve received a shipment of 27,000 tests from a warehouse in China.

“We feel blessed to be in this position to help people,” Dr. DeGennaro said.

When 8 On Your Side told him how a Tampa doctor helped our viewer beat the virus, he pledged during the interview to send his office a box of 25 COVID-19 antibody tests for free.

“I wish I could do his for every doctor in the country,” Dr. DeGennaro said. “I understand how frustrating it is. We just don’t have the capacity. For this one special doctor, absolutely.”

8 On Your Side has provided Abacus Pharma International with the contact information and address for Dr. Do, a pulmonologist at Florida Medical Clinic.

As pharmaceutical companies seek approval from the FDA and try to increase distribution of COVID-19 antibody tests, Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging caution.

Dr. Fauci has said more research is needed to know whether having a COVID-19 antibody fully protects someone from reinfection. That is true for other viruses, but medical experts say there is still more to learn about this new coronavirus.

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