Antibody Test Critical to Asymptomatic Surveillance and Control of Pandemic: Birx

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
April 18, 2020Updated: April 18, 2020

Antibody testing is critical to asymptomatic surveillance of COVID-19, and sentinel surveillance sites for this testing will be set up around the country to control the pandemic, said the members of the coronavirus task force in a press briefing at the White House on April 17.

Sentinel surveillance is the monitoring of changes in the health of a population, and the sites are for collecting community-wide in-depth data.

Analysis of data gathered at the sentinel sites helps the administration monitor and refine strategies to bring the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus under control.

The presence of antibodies to COVID-19 in people determines their immunity to the disease.

During Friday’s press briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently working on adding 20 million new antibody tests to the administration’s supply before the end of April.

“I want to assure the American people that we’re going to continue to work with your governors and with your state health officials to scale testing in the days ahead,” said Pence.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx speaks at the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the White House in Washington, on April 10, 2020. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Asymptomatic Monitoring Sites

Anthony Fauci, a member of the Coronavirus Task Force and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, spoke about two purposes of the antibody test during the press briefing on Friday. “One of them is to actually test for the infection: is a person infected,” said Fauci. “The other is to test, as we just mentioned, if someone has been infected—usually someone who’s been infected, who has recovered.”

Fauci said someone who has been infected and has recovered has antibodies in their system. “That person is actually protected against subsequent exposure and infection with an identical organism,” he said, adding that because of the novelty of the COVID-19, the researchers still don’t know how long this protection in recovered persons will last.

Deborah Birx, a physician who serves as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, explains how sentinel surveillance sites will be key to detecting hotspots that may spring up in the months ahead, “What we talked about yesterday—we talked about nursing homes, we talked about indigenous people, and we talked about vulnerable people in the inner city, really ensuring that something that is so small, that can’t even be seen on the surveillance monitoring, will be able to be seen in the asymptomatic.”

Epoch Times Photo
A staff member of Odyssey House Louisiana, which runs a drive-thru testing site for the CCP virus, waves to passing vehicles in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 27, 2020. (Kathleen Flynn/Reuters)

Birx wants to identify additional testing capacity across the country. She said as the additional antibody tests come available, she wants to work with mayors to test first responders and healthcare workers in states with the highest prevalence of the disease.

“Because things can look very good in the lab, and then when you take them into the field, sometimes they’re not as good,” said Birx.

Fauci warned the public not to underestimate the importance of testing. “Testing is a part, an important part, of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak,” he said.

“We need to be humble and modest that we don’t know everything about it, but it [the antibody test] really is an important test,” he said.