Mayo Clinic serology test could play key role in pandemic response

A health care workers prepares a patient for a blood test. (Mayo Clinic News Network)

The serology test developed at the Mayo Clinic laboratory could be an important weapon in COVID-19 fight.

“So, what this blood test is, it looks for antibodies that are specific for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which will be present in the blood if someone had been infected by the virus, typically about one to two weeks after their infection, this antibody will appear in their blood,” said Dr. William Morice of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Laboratory Medicine.

Dr. Morice says the highly accurate test not only confirms COVID-19 exposure, but also if the patient has developed an immunity.

“Right now as we build up capacity, the focus will really be on those who need to understand if they are immune to COVID-19,” said Morice. “So, that includes health care workers, first responders, others who are really on the front lines battling this disease … I think the next phase will be working with state and federal governments to understand who else needs to be tested so we can reopen society and who is potentially immune to COVID-19.”

Mayo Clinic already has the capacity to process 10,000 serology tests a day. Even more important, it can generate results in less than 24 hours.

Dr. Morice says the serology test could be a key tool to allow people to get back to work and get the economy started again. It won’t be the only tool, though. A serology test showing antibodies does not reveal whether the person may be still contagious.

“So we’re really going to have to use a combination of molecular and serologic testing to understand how to safely reopen society and protect those who are at risk for having bad COVID-19 disease and that’s why we are working in such strong collaboration with our local governments and our state governments to do this as quickly as possible,” said Morice.  

If you have already recovered from the virus or have reason to believe that you have been exposed and want to take a serology test, Morice says you need to start with your own doctor or nurse line.