VERO BEACH — A mini-trial to test for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies has been taking place at Whole Family Health Center, under the direction of infectious disease specialist Dr. Gerald Pierone.
Marie Andress, Whole Family Health Center's CEO, told trustees of the Indian River County Hospital District on Tuesday her employees each received a rapid-antibody test to detect if they previously were exposed to the coronavirus and now have built-up antibodies to the disease.
The test produces results in 10-15 minutes instead of several days.
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“Recently, we just did full rapid test(s) for antibodies for every single one of our employees and then verified it by doing full blood work through Quest,” Andress said.
It's important to Pierone to determine who has been exposed to the virus, Andress said, and not just employees of Whole Family Health Center, but the community.
"So, as we go forward, you may have some immunity," she said. "(Pierone) does clinical trials anyway, so we are a little bit of his test patients right now.”
The mini-trial turned out well for Whole Family Health Center because it allowed the center to determine if the 15-minute rapid test was accurate, Andress said.
“You may have heard that some of these antibody tests are good and some are not so good,” she said.” I think we have some good stock; we talked to the manufacturer that is supplying these and although it might be premature, we might be able to offer it to groups within the community.”
It would be beneficial for the community to have access to the rapid-antibody test, said Mary Beth Cunningham, Hospital District chairwoman. But she questioned if the test developer could handle such a high volume of tests.
“We’re checking that out right now but, it would be limited by the number of rapid tests we could get,” Andress said. “The blood work that gets verified by Quest is pretty much unlimited. I think it would worthwhile to the community to do that.”
Nicholas Coppola, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Indian River County, asked if his staff could receive the rapid-antibody test as well.
“I think there’s a ton of importance to this testing,” he said. “I think everyone should get tested because that will give us a better idea of the total percentage of people who have been infected and then we can decide what percentage is asymptomatic.”
Although the testing has been limited to Whole Family Health Center employees so far, Andress said she hopes it will be expanded in the future.
“I’m not suggesting we can handle the entire community,” she said. “But we do want to offer it to groups that may be interested. It’s just one more option that may be worthwhile.”
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