By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Researchers at the University of Denver helped to develop an antibody test for COVID-19 that would help patients know how infectious they could be to others and the severity of their symptoms from the virus. The potential of a more sensitive test that provides better guidance to healthcare providers on how to treat the long-term effects of the virus could also help companies prepare for staff returning to the office.

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“The fact that you can see how your body is reacting to the virus by sending this piece of paper is quite revolutionary,” said Dr. Lotta Granholm-Bentley, Executive Director of the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging at DU.

The new approach will test 12 different viral antigens, more than other tests to help determine what symptoms a patient may face while contracting the coronavirus. A study by the Knoebel Institute looked at 106 patients. Using this new test, those who tested negative never showed any symptoms. Those who tested positive had symptoms like the flu and loss of taste and smell.

“Your body will show if it was exposed, so maybe it was exposed last week, but you’re still in the throws of the disease,” she said on Friday over a video conference call.

The level of antibodies could tell someone if they are more infectious, and the test could use a proper blood sample or just a drop of blood on a piece of paper that is a part of a mail-in test. Working alongside Vibrant Sciences lab company and Resilience Code clinic, the test can be turned around in 48 hours, but the results may require more time depending on who is administering it.

“The way the antibodies respond, the way the profile happens in this test will actually show if they are likely to have long-term effects,” Granholm-Bentley said.

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She explained that a PCR test remains valuable to understand if someone has the virus at a moment in time, especially if they are scheduled for a medical procedure. But once a family has learned of an outbreak in their own home and some have tested positive while others have not, this test could be used to further understand the exposure to all members of that household.

When people will routinely be around each other with repeat contact, the new antibody test would also be a better resource. She even hopes DU could use it for checking students before they return to classes.

“It will be extremely for businesses, for healthcare systems, for hospitals to be able to determine about their personnel, are they safe to come back, you know because of their antibody profile,” she said.

Pricing and availability are still unclear at this time as it will depend on the patient and health care provider administering the test but the FDA did give it emergency approval. Granholm-Bentley said she would hope it is in wide use by this spring.

Shawn Chitnis