15-30% more people test positive for antibodies than COVID-19

15-30% more people test positive for antibodies than COVID-19
After three weeks and around 600 tests, Dr. Barron Nason, owner of NasonCare, says between two and three percent of those tested have the COVID-19 antibodies. (Source: Live 5 News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) -A local doctor has found more people are testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies than the active disease.

This data could give us a sense of how many people have contracted COVID-19 and not just the number of people who tested positive, since many people were not able to get tested and others never developed symptoms.

After three weeks and around 600 tests, Dr. Barron Nason, owner of NasonCare, says between two and three percent of those tested have the COVID-19 antibodies. Those numbers are consistent with testing done by MUSC of their staff in April.

SEE RELATED STORY: Results show 2% of tested MUSC staff have COVID-19 antibodies

A key part to the testing is a series of questions that explore where a patient has been, why they want a test, and whether they have come into contact with a person with a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

“What we discovered is the patients that have been following the quarantine guidelines have been well protected,” Nason said. “The people at greatest risk, as we expect, are those working on the front line, those exposed to known COVID patients or those who have recently been vacationing or living in those hot spots.”

So far, the results have been fairly typical. However, a closer look reveals something more important.

“What we found most interesting was the relationship of those who tested positive for antibodies compared to those who tested positive for active infection,” Nason said. “Our initial data showed there were 16 percent more patients with antibodies than had tested positive for the virus.”

More recently that number has increased from 16 percent to nearly 30 percent. The comparative percentage could be an indication of how many people actually have or did have the coronavirus. Nason says many of those positive tests come from people who have traveled from New York and New Jersey where community spread is significantly higher than South Carolina.

While we may be conditioned to think a higher percentage is a negative sign, this one could be good. The more people with antibodies the closer we get to, presumably, herd immunity. The science is still out on how effective the presence of antibodies is in preventing reinfection, but for the most are doctors are optimistic.

“From what we know about antibodies they should at least make a second spike easier to fight off, just like we see in the flu,” Nason said. Still, 15-30 percent more of two percent is still a tiny amount of the population.

“We had quite a few patients come in who swear they’ve had it... and then they are shocked when their antibody test comes back negative,” Nason said. “What it shows is just because you had a fever or a cough or symptoms consistent with COVID there are many illnesses that cause flu-like symptoms.”

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