If there's one thing the world has learned so far in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's the important role of testing for the disease. The ability to know who has the virus and who doesn't provides critical information for people and entire regions.
Early testing involved collecting cells from the back of the throat or nasal passages of patients to detect genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests, known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, can pick up the presence of viral nucleic acid. Mayo Clinic's speedily developed PCR test filled a critical need when tests were in short supply across the country.
Researchers also are interested in developing a type of testing known as serology. This kind of testing involves looking for the patient's immune response to the virus in blood samples. Specifically, these tests track down antibodies, which are small proteins created by the immune system in the process of fighting off a disease. Antibodies can be particular for one kind of disease or sometimes a disease-type, and can provide a window into a patient's infection history. The ability to detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 can reveal whether a patient has had COVID-19, even if they were never diagnosed or never felt sick.
What's the big deal about antibodies?
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