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Wake Forest COVID-19 antibodies study finding fewer positive tests
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Wake Forest COVID-19 antibodies study finding fewer positive tests

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The latest update on Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s testing for COVID-19 antibodies shows a decline in positive test rates among North Carolinians, primarily in the Triad.

Antibodies are measured by medical researchers to determine levels of community spread with viruses. A positive test signifies that an individual has been infected with the virus, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

The percentage of study participants with antibodies was listed at 3% as of Sept. 10, meaning 578 out of 19,269 study participants have shown to have the antibodies.

That’s down from 10% on Aug. 10.

Other reports had the positive test rates between 8% and 10% on Aug. 3, between 12% and 15% on July 17, between 8% and 10% on June 22, and 3% on June 8.

Wake Forest Baptist cautioned Monday that "the lower percentage of positive tests may be due to fewer test kits being sent in August. Also, a new test kit is now being used."

Test participants are asked to keep a daily log of any potential COVID-19 symptoms, and there have been 1.53 million logs completed since the testing began in April.

The Community Partnership Research study has participants primarily from Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph counties. The participants are tested for antibodies on an ongoing basis.

Wake Forest Baptist began testing in April, with Atrium Health also participating. Eligible patients have received care within their health systems. The bulk of the participants so far are between ages 50 and 75 but range in age from 16 to 95.

Researchers provide some participants with at-home test kits every month for one year to track the virus and population immunity over time. If antibodies are present, it signals a high probability the individuals had the virus in the past.

Antibodies can generally be detected in a person’s blood 14 days after the start of symptoms, which means the data collected through the study will be a lagging indicator of the virus’ prevalence in the population.

According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, one way for a community population to become immune to an infectious disease is herd immunity. Usually, 70% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity, according to the researchers.

In May, state legislators approved providing a $20 million boost to the Wake Forest Baptist COVID-19 antibodies study. State Republican legislative leaders on April 15 provided Wake Forest Baptist researchers with $100,000 in state money as part of the lawmakers’ plan for the random testing of 1,000 North Carolinians for COVID-19.

The state funding is aimed at the rapid development of a method that can be used as soon as possible to prevent and treat infection; bringing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to the public as soon as possible; community-testing initiatives; and other research related to COVID-19.

All data will be shared in real time with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and state and local public health departments.

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Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced Monday the legislature is providing $100,000 to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center toward paying for 1,000 antibody kits. The kits, which began being placed in the mail Monday, are the key part of a study aimed at reaching a representative sample of the population. The legislative leaders said the study “will provide data to help legislators make decisions in the coming weeks.”

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