7,500 Arkansans will take part in UAMS high-accuracy COVID-19 antibody test study

Doctors say these results will be crucial for state leaders who are making safety decisions for the state, like reopening schools and mass gatherings.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — UAMS has launched a high-accuracy COVID-19 antibody test study. Through the research, doctors hope to determine the extent of COVID-19 in Arkansas.

“This is a test that’s been put to the fire. It’s been held to the fire to make sure what we get is what we are looking for,” said Dr. Joshua Kennedy, associate professor at the College of Medicine at UAMS.

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Kennedy and his team have spent long hours since March working to launch this new COVID-19 antibody test after being asked by the Arkansas Department of Health to create one.

It’ll evaluate Arkansans who’ve been infected with the virus.

“One of the problems has been having sufficient testing,” said Kennedy. “In early times, it really left us with a problem of not having enough testing for patients who had symptoms. If you weren’t able to get testing and know if you had the disease when you had symptoms, now we can think about exposure of virus using antibodies.”

UAMS researchers are conducting the antibody tests through October.

It’s supported through federal funds specifically for the response to COVID-19.

UAMS will randomly select 7,500 willing Arkansans to simply have their blood drawn for the study.

“We will ask that a nurse visit their home or that they visit a local health unit,” said Kennedy.

Doctors say these results are crucial for state leaders who are making safety decisions for the state, like reopening schools and mass gatherings.

“Providing accurate estimates is vitally important in helping policymakers plan for implementing protective and treatment measures in Arkansas,” said Dr. Mark Williams, College of Public Health Dean.“Without this information, public health officials are just guessing, and there is a chance they will guess wrong.”

Dr. Kennedy said a positive antibody test doesn’t mean it’s safe to let your guard down.

Even if your test shows that you have antibodies for the virus, you should still social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.

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“At this date, we don’t understand the antibody response enough to say a positive test provides you with enough immunity to just be exposed,” said Kennedy. “What we don’t want to do is be irresponsible.”