Antibody test study at Chicago's Rush hospital seeks to understand COVID-19 immunity

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Testing is underway at Rush University Medical Center to determine if antibodies can be an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Hospital staff and students are being tested to see whether they've contracted the virus.

Emergency room nurse Bill Kneitz is among those participating in the new antibody study.

"There are a lot of us who have gone through some symptoms of COVID, but not full on COVID," Kneitz said "No one has had fevers or anything, but we all want to know to give us piece of mind that we have had it or not."

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Bala Hota, who's is involved in the trial study, said the testing could be used to better understand the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We really see an opportunity at Rush to learn and to find the science around how these tests are meaningful," Dr. Hota said. "I think nationally we need a 'back-to-work' strategy. We need to understand how we can really understand whether we're immune, whether when we've been exposed and we've gotten over it."

There are a lot of questions surrounding immunity and how long it could last.

"This is hard to believe but the virus has really only been here on the U.S. for a few months," said Dr. Hota. "And so we just haven't had the experience to know are we not at risk of getting it again."

Their antibody blood tests are only for employees and students at Rush, but there are clinics offering tests to the general public.

Dr. Hota has some concerns about the reliability of those tests.

"You have to be really careful interpreting," Dr. Hota said. "It's not to say, don't do it. It's just that it might not really mean all that much when you get the result."

Kneitz said he's looking forward to getting his results in a few days. He hopes the study will help make a difference in the fight against coronavirus.

"I have been an emergency room nurse for 20 years. I have never seen anything like this, where people can go from OK to sick within minutes," he said.

After testing Rush employees and students, those organizing the study want to include a large pool of participants.
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