As the U.S. progresses towards plans to reopen the economy, much of the discussion is focused on how antibody testing may be the key to assessing the true mortality and infection rate of SARS-CoV-2.
A new antibody testing study conducted by a Stanford University research team found that the infection rate of COVID-19 could be as high as 4.2 percent, which is significantly higher than originally thought.
True rate of infections
While current COVID-19 testing determines whether someone is positive for the virus at the time of testing, it does not determine if someone has already been infected and recovered without showing symptoms.
There is widespread speculation in the scientific community that the coronavirus was present here in the United States long before shutdowns were implemented.
There may have been individuals as far back as December and January, maybe even November, that were infected by the novel coronavirus and never knew it.
They could have had flu-like symptoms and because we did not know about the virus at that point, they just thought they had a really bad case of the flu. That is what this antibody test will be able to determine.
New testing available
Antibody testing is the latest push right now, and as such, there are several tests that have been developed. In the Standford study, 3,300 volunteers from California’s Santa Clara County had their blood tested to determine if they had developed antibodies to the virus.
Of those tested, between 2.5 to 4.2 percent were found to have been infected by the virus at some point.
Santa Clara County is comprised of roughly two million people, which means upwards of 81,000 people on the high end and 48,000 people on the low end were probably infected, yet only 958 cases have been reported in this area.
The @stanford antibody testing is out – it estimates ~3% of people in Santa Clara County (CA) have been infected and recovered, 50-plus times the estimate of confirmed active cases. More evidence #SARSCoV2 is far more widespread and thus less dangerous than expected. pic.twitter.com/wWw7M6RXfM
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 17, 2020
This means thousands of asymptomatic individuals could be walking around with the virus, transmitting it to others, and don’t even know it.
A much smaller test sample was recently done in Johnson County, Kansas, with similar results. In that test, 374 people were tested, resulting in a 3.8 infection rate.
While the results of the antibody studies tentatively show that the disease transmits very rapidly, they also show that the death rate from the virus is likely dramatically lower than currently thought — a discovery that could have major policy implications.