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Aspirus testing for COVID-19 antibodies

Photo courtesy of Aspirus Amy Kumpula, lead medical technologist at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital works under the microbiology hood in the hospital’s laboratory.

LAURIUM — Aspirus began performing tests for COVID-19 antibodies this week. 

The serology tests look for antibodies, proteins generated by the body’s immune system in response to COVID-19. 

Antibodies can be used to detect COVID-19 infections in people who were previously infected while showing no or few symptoms. 

That will allow for a better sense of if or how widely COVID-19 has spread in the community, said Christina Asiala, Upper Peninsula regional director of laboratory services for Aspirus. That information will be useful information as parts of the economy look to reopen. 

“It’s basically just the next step in the fight against COVID-19,” she said. 

Testing is performed daily. The tests are sent to Aspirus’s hospital lab in Wausau, Wisconsin, which will provide results 24 hours after testing. Under the CARES Act, the tests are free. 

After a referral from a patient’s primary care provider, they would go to Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium or the clinic in Houghton for a blood draw. Before they enter, they must also undergo a screening process at the door, including a temperature check.  

“The whole process probably takes about 15 to 20 minutes,” Asiala said. 

Testing began locally on Monday. So far, between 30 to 50 people have been tested, Asiala said. Some have gotten results back, though those are confidential, Asiala said. 

Researchers are still studying whether the antibodies provide immunity against future infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also looking at what level of antibodies would be needed, how long any protection would last, and what factors lead a person to develop antibodies.

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