BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thirteen Maryland hospitals are teaming up on a new antibody study to determine how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 in order to learn more about how it spreads.
State health officials said they’re working with the hospitals, collecting leftover blood samples from 6,000 emergency room patients to test them for antibodies.
“The antibody testing tells us how many people, potentially what percent of the population has been exposed to the disease at any time during the last six months,” Dennis Shrader with the Maryland Department of Health explained.
Officials said right now there are still numerous people who haven’t been infected by the coronavirus or don’t know they’ve been infected because they’re asymptomatic.
Researchers will look for protein antibodies in the blood made in response to COVID-19. They will not test for the virus itself.
Dr. Stephen Selinger, the chairman of medicine at MedStar Franklin Square Hospital, said the data they collect will show how often a person is exposed to COVID-19 and how it can be spread by those who don’t show symptoms.
“Measuring antibodies within a population allows us to understand how often this asymptomatic spread may be occurring,” he said.
Learning about the transmission of COVID-19 is crucial to curbing transmission and to help fight the virus more effectively, Selinger said.
“This is not just about taking care of the patients that come through our doors, but I think its taking care of the population that we’re responsible for in Maryland,” he said.
Additional testing is expected to take place based on what the initial results show.
For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.