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UArizona expanding antibody testing to support research efforts

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 09:17:42-04

TUCSON, Ariz, - There is still so much that is unknown about COVID-19, as well as the antibodies left behind in someone who's been infected.

“We don’t know enough about the virus yet to know how long those antibodies will last and protect you from another infection. We don’t know what level of antibody response is necessary to be protected," said Dan Derksen, the Associate Vice President for Health Equity, Outreach, and Interproffessional Activities at the University of Arizona.

By expanding on who can get a free antibody test in the state, researchers at the University of Arizona are hoping to be able to answer some very important questions.

“The most critical question that we’re asking with Arizona Heroes study is how long you immunity to COVID-19 lasts," said Jeff Burgess, an Associate Dean for Research and Professor at the University of Arizona.

Burgess is working on the 'Arizona Heroes Study', a research project looking into COVID-19 antibodies.

Burgess said in order to conduct the study, researchers need 4,000 participants. Half must have COVID-19 antibodies, and the other half must be without.

The team is bringing in participants through the free antibody testing being offered by the partnership between the Univeristy of Arizona and the State of Arizona, which was announced earlier this year.

Burgess said initially, the free antibody tests were only being given to health care workers and first responders, but recently, they decided to expand on who can get one of these free tests.

We are interested in essential workers of all types because they have different kinds of exposures," he said.

The expansion includes grocery store workers, journalists, agricultural workers, hotel staff, among others.

The goal remains to collect 250,000 antibody tests throughout the next several months. Derksen said so far, researchers have been able to collect roughly 23,000.

Researchers hope the collection of antibody tests across different essential fields and the research study not only give insight into COVID-19, but also into the effectiveness of a vaccine.

“So that we know when a vaccine is given, whether an individual has mounted an adequate antibody response to be protected," said Derksen.

If you've had COVID-19 and would like to take part in the 'Arizona Heroes Study' you can reach out to research officials by email at AZHeroes@arizona.edu, or by phone at (520) 848-4026. You can find more information here.