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Framingham-Based Cardiovascular Lab Switches Focus To Test For COVID-19 Antibodies

FRAMINGHAM (CBS) -- Boston Heart Diagnostics normally handles patients who have a cardiovascular disorder and may be trending towards diabetes, but now they are hoping to see if a blood test can determine if someone has some level of immunity to COVID-19.

President Patrick Noland said his Framingham lab was eager to get involved. "We hear of Elon Musk making ventilators and clothing companies making masks. Well, we're a cardiovascular company offering COVID-19 testing," he said.

Unlike the swab tests to determine if someone has the virus, the blood test that will be analyzed at the Framingham lab will determine if a person had the virus, and maybe showed mild to no symptoms. Noland said the test could be a tool to identify people who were exposed and developed some level of immunity.

The testing is recommended at least 14 days after potential exposure, giving the body time to develop an immune response. Noland said, "When you have the disease you have a certain antibody response, then as you start to build immunity you have an antibody response."

The priority right now is to test first responders and other medical workers. According to Noland, if they have been exposed and developed some level of immunity, they may be able to stay on the front lines helping patients battling the virus.

"It's a confidence thing for the employees," said Noland, "but also for the administrators running these hospitals. They've got their business continuity plans" and need to know if they have enough nurses and doctors to handle a surge in patients.

The antibody testing could also be done on patients in the hospital who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Noland said it's important to research, "how are their antibodies reacting, and then the patients that build really good immune response."

For those who do build a really good immune response and get well, Noland said their blood plasma could possibly help other sick patients down the road. "The ones that have a really good immune response, which this test will tell you, they would be great candidates."

That said, more research is being done on antibody testing. "There's a lot of smart people working on the research to determine to what degree are you immune and how long that immunity lasts. Those questions need additional studying, but we'll get there," Noland said.

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