Antibody testing could be key to opening businesses closed by pandemic

Posted at 11:23 AM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 00:25:12-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — One nutrition supplement company in Henderson, Designs for Health (DFH), will test its employees for the coronavirus in a way that could become a model paving the way to reopening businesses impacted by the international pandemic.

Design for Health President Roger Koehler said the company will perform an antibody test on volunteers at their Henderson location Thursday.

"It's 100% a safety program," Koehler said.

13 HELPS: List of resources for Nevadans during coronavirus pandemic

He said the tests made by their partner company Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory, Inc. (DSL) work differently than the nasal swab test most people are familiar with.

Swab tests are designed to collect live virus from the back of a person's sinus cavity and only works to detect active infection in the body.

The test the DFH is performing in Henderson will be a blood draw allowing DSL to check if the employee has never had the infection, if they're currently infected, or if that person was sick a long time ago.

"The fact that we have this partnership with Diagnostic Solutions Lab is a major advantage," Koehler said.

Tony Hoffman, president and CEO of DSL, said the blood tests look for 2 types of antibodies the body makes specifically to fight a SARS-COVI-2 infection.

The body first makes IgM antibodies, indicating an active infection if they're high in the test, and then the body will make IgG antibodies.

IgG antibodies could be the key to reopening businesses.

"IgG is the immunoglobulin that conveys long term potential immunity to SARS-COVI-2 virus," Hoffman said.

DFH and DSL Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Brady said by tracking the level of IgG antibodies inside of a person's blood they can track the long term potential for their immunity to the coronavirus.

"How long the immunity lasts, we don't know," Brady said, "we'll know a lot better when this all unfolds."

Brady said people will be safer when the population reaches the point of herd immunity where enough people are immunized that it naturally protects those who aren't from coming into contact with the virus.

"We're doing it on a company-wide basis, but it really needs to be done on a municipality, a county, a state, a regional basis," he said, "to really make the best, most reasonable, informed decision to try to get our economy back open, but yet do it in a way that saves lives."

DFH has already tested 116 employees and contractors at their locations in Florida and Connecticut.

Koehler said there are currently no plans to test at the same location more than once, but the option was still on the table.

STAY UP TO DATE: Continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic