Doctors are still learning about COVID-19 and antibodies


HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) As the nation moves forward in its coronavirus response, questions continue to be raised about testing for COVID-19 antibodies.

There is research that shows that plasma from a person who had COVID-19 may help treat other people who contract the infection. The jury is still out on the accuracy of some of the antibody testing and just exactly how effective those antibodies are in treating people with COVID-19.

State and local healthcare officials say there are still many unanswered questions about COVID-19 anti-bodies and how they might help people who have the virus.

Questions also remain about some of the antibody tests that are currently being used across the nation. Eyewitness News spoke to a Luzerne County man who tested positive for COVID-19 and who says he’s frustrated by what he calls the uncertainty surrounding antibody testing.

Rick Morelli from Sugarloaf donated his plasma twice in recent weeks. He tested positive for the coronavirus in March and wanted to help other people who contracted the disease. Several weeks after donating plasma, he took a COVID-19 antibody test.

“My antibody test came back negative and it really surprised me because again everything you hear out there if you had the COVID you should have the antibodies.”

But that is not necessarily the case for every person who tests positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health tells Eyewitness News,

“Many of the items that this individual’s circumstance raise are those that the scientific community continues to research.”

“The tests are an option for people but it’s important for people to understand that just because someone has antibodies it may not mean they could not get COVID-19.”

We asked Dr. Jodi Lenko from Lehigh Valley Hazleton about scenarios like Morelli’s.

“So we are still learning but I would say that we do know even patients that have the infection in the past don’t always mount an antibody response meaning that you could have had the infection but your body may not make these antibodies to that infection. So you will not be immune to the infection and testing for those antibodies may be negative,” she said.

Dr. Lenko says the bottom line is there are still so many unknowns with the coronavirus that medical professionals are still learning about the virus even as they deal with it in their communities.

Many healthcare providers like Lehigh Valley Hazleton contract out with laboratories to perform the COVID-19 antibody testing.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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