HUDSON — As businesses reopen and office work resumes, antibody testing has emerged as the newest frontier in the fight against coronavirus.
The Columbia County Department of Health has partnered with Columbia Memorial Health to perform 1,000 rapid serological tests, more commonly known as antibody tests, on county residents.
The 1,000 antibody tests will be used to obtain an estimate of asymptomatic Columbia County residents who may have developed antibodies to the SARS CoV-2 virus, more commonly known as COVID-19 or coronavirus, according to Chuck Kaiser, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Columbia County Department of Health.
Antibody testing, which shows whether a person has been exposed to COVID-19 and subsequently produced an immune response, will give county health officials a better picture of the virus’ spread since the beginning of the pandemic. Columbia County announced its first case of coronavirus nearly three months ago, on March 20.
There are two types of testing for COVID-19: diagnostic and serological. Diagnostic testing determines whether a person has an active case of the virus, while antibody testing shows whether a person has ever had even a mild or asymptomatic case.
Columbia County had limited diagnostic testing available to the public during the months of March and April, which frustrated residents and prevented officials from getting an accurate picture of the pandemic.
As supplies became available and diagnostic testing ramped up in May and June, health officials have doubled down on their efforts to track and contain the spread of new infections.
Antibody testing will show how effective the county has been at containing COVID-19 and may give officials a clearer picture of the months preceding widespread diagnostic testing.
The county plans to hold several antibody sampling clinics, where health officials hope to test a cross-section of the public.
The plan for antibody clinics awaits approval from the Columbia Memorial Health laboratory, which will analyze the tests. After receiving input from the CMH lab, the health department’s mobile sampling committee and Director of Public Health Jack Mabb must also sign off on the plan, Kaiser said.
As with diagnostic testing, residents will be asked to pre-register through an online screening tool to determine if they are a good candidate for antibody testing. Anyone who has recently had symptoms of COVID-19 will be disqualified, Kaiser said.
Kaiser was tasked with researching antibody testing kits for purchase by Columbia County, a process he characterized as “challenging and extensive” due to the county’s high standards and limited budget.
After a lengthy search, Kaiser identified American Bio Medica Corporation, a biotechnology manufacturer and distributor based in Kinderhook, as the best option.
American Bio Medica is a distributor of HealGen antibody kits, which were authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on May 29.
Melissa Waterhouse, CEO of American Bio Medica, said the HealGen antibody kits, which are due to arrive by the end of the week, are highly accurate in detecting the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.
The company is pleased to be providing supplies to Columbia County residents, Waterhouse said.
“It is really great when we can help our own community,” she said.