Dr. Jon LaPook on the value of antibody tests for past coronavirus infection

Dr. Jon LaPook on the value of antibody tests
Dr. Jon LaPook on the value of antibody tests... 02:21

I hope you're all holding up as well as possible during this pandemic of COVID-19. I want to talk to you today about something that's been on my mind. I think it's very important, but it's not getting enough attention, and it has to do with testing.

I'm not talking about the nasal or throat swab that looks for evidence of active infection. I'm talking about something totally different. It's called a serology or antibody test. It's a simple blood test that looks for evidence of past infection.

Now, why is that so important? Well, it's very likely that a lot of us have already been infected with the coronavirus without even realizing it. We had few symptoms, or we had no symptoms.

And the reason why that's so important is that if we've already been infected, then the likelihood is, we have immunity. We're protected from further infection, at least for a few years if this is acting like other viruses have been in the past.

Well, those are people who could potentially go back to the front lines, to the workforce.

We're talking right now about this friction between "saving" the economy and treating COVID-19. 

Well, we should be able to get our arms around both.

Technically, this is not hard to do. It's very similar to the kind of tests that's done all the time, looking for immunity to things like measles, mumps and rubella. But we have to want to do it. And we have to want to do it now.

That means cutting red tape. Adequately funding it, basically prioritizing it. It's not only important for figuring out who among us is adequately protected and can go back to work; don't we all want to know if we've already been infected and can just go about our daily lives?

And not only that, it's going to give us a better idea of community spread; how widely is the coronavirus spread throughout the country.

Finally, I know this is a very rough time. Our lives have been turned upside-down, and it's taxing every which way: physically, economically, emotionally. And I'm not trying to sugarcoat this. But remember about 80 percent of the time, people have relatively mild cases.

And I know I've said this before, but I've gotta repeat it again: This is going to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We are going to get through this, I promise, and we're going to get through it together.

       
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Story produced by Young Kim. Editor: Emanuele Secci.

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  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook