USF doctor hoping antibodies will help answer coronavirus questions

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A University of South Florida research project is starting to reveal more about COVID-19 in the Tampa Bay area. One key finding is that right now, the number of cases here is relatively low.

While that is good news in general, USF’s Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Kami Kim says it’s also bad news.

“What it means is that there probably aren’t that many people who are protected if we open up and we get an influx of people who aren’t responsible or don’t know they’re infected,” she said.

Dr. Kim says more testing is needed. She says the nasal swab PCR test is a very good test but still can’t answer all of the questions.

“Just because we detect the genetic material doesn’t mean it’s an active virus that can be transmitted to another person,” she said.

Dr. Kim does believe antibodies are going to be the most important piece of the puzzle. She’s anxious to determine if antibodies can prevent infection of the live virus.

“There are some hints, in preliminary data, that a fairly large proportion of those people will have what are protective antibodies,” Dr. Kim said.

And then the million-dollar question is how long do the antibodies last?

When it comes to those rapid finger prick antibody tests, Dr. Kim says some of them have a problem with false positives. She says the antibody tests being developed for commercial use appear to be more reliable.

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