Department of General Services to begin antibody testing for COVID-19 at Virginia lab

Coronavirus
Hugo Marti, James Donald

Lab technician James Donald, right, uses a nasal swab to test Hugo Marti for COVID-19, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at the AHEPA Apartments in Miami. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Prime Care Family Medical Centers opened the free testing site to test the residents of the senior apartments. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

RICHMOND (WAVY) — The Department of General Services says the state’s public health lab and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) have begun antibody testing for COVID-19 in order to track exposure to the disease statewide.

Health officials say antibody testing detects the presence of antibodies that indicate someone has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

The state’s public health lab is one of the first labs to start testing for new and emerging public health threats, such as viral or bacterial diseases, and it also helps other public and private labs stand up their testing, the Department of General Services said.

The DCLS will turn its efforts to surveillance in order to track the impact of the disease on Virginia’s population.

With COVID-19, the DCLS began using a molecular test called a polymerase chain reaction, which detects the virus’s genetic material.

Health officials said the PCR testing shows if a person currently is infected with the virus.

The Department of General Services says other labs offer antibody testing to help individuals understand if they may have been exposed to COVID-19, DCLS will work with public health officials to determine populations to test to gain a better understanding of how the disease has and continues to spread in Virginia.

Scientists are using testing that looks for antibodies. The presence of antibodies without documented illness can be used to potentially identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus, who don’t experience symptoms but have antibodies in their blood, according to the Department of General Services.

The antibody test used at DCLS can process a large number of samples in about 20 minutes. A small team of DCLS scientists can test up to 220 samples per hour, should the demand increase.

The Department of General Services says the team has a large inventory of testing supplies and does not foresee issues with supply shortages at this time, as have been experienced by some labs for molecular tests.

For more information on the antibody testing visit the Department of General Services’ website.

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