Antibody testing would help Minnesotans find out if their illness was COVID-19

If rolled out to the public, it could help determine if your illness was COVID-19 or something else.

Minnesota may be close to gaining a step on the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus through antibody testing that could detect if a person has already had COVID-19. 

Antibody testing would allow Minnesotans who have been left to wonder if their respiratory symptoms were from COVID-19 or something else, and work is underway at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to bring such a test to market.

It's unclear how many Minnesotans have tried to get tested for the virus only to be denied due to an ongoing shortage in testing supplies and capacity, but it's likely a significant number given that tests have been restricted to healthcare workers, the hospitalized, and those in congregate living settings for weeks now.

Gov. Tim Walz said Monday that the hope with antibody testing would be to find out who might've been infected with the virus and now possibly has some level of immunity to it, making it safe for them to live a normal life amid the pandemic orders that have shuttered businesses and kept Minnesotans under a stay-at-home order. 

But there's one critical area of unknown: There is not enough data to guarantee that someone who had COVID-19 can't get it again.

"We don't know yet if that's the case. We don't if they can get it again yet," said Walz. "I think in most of these cases there would be a belief that a certain percentage of folks would be immune from that," thus helping determine "who wouldn't need to be quarantined" and "who could be out and not infecting others." 

The Star Tribune reported on Monday that more verification of antibody tests is needed before researchers at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic will be ready to go public with the tests, but they might gain enough confidence to move forward within a couple of weeks. 

Sign up for our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

Limited antibody testing is already available in some states, including Alabama, where there are two screening locations in the City of Mobile. The antibody tests are taken on site and before a patient leaves they know if their immune system has been contacted by the virus. 

Getting positive antibody tests would also help determine how deadly COVID-19 is. The case fatality rate in Minnesota can only be determined by the number of tests, confirmed cases and deaths, which as of Tuesday stands at 629 cases and 12 deaths, creating a fatality rate of 1.91 percent.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.12.52 AM

At the national level, there is a race to find out if antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients can be used to treat critically ill patients – with scientists at the University of Minnesota among those conducting such research.

"Using plasma or human antibodies to treat COVID-19 is an important strategy. It was used in 1918 with the influenza pandemic," said Dr. Gregory Poland, vaccine specialist at the Mayo Clinic. "Using plasma is a polyclonal approach. There are also laboratory methods by which you can make a monoclonal antibody, and both of those are going to be tried."

According to CBS News, blood from recovered patients contains antibodies that can fight the virus. Clinical testing is already underway at Houston Methodist Hospital and it will soon be happening at Mount Sinai in New York. 

"We have some idea, partially from the 1918 influenza epidemic, that taking blood plasma from one person and giving it to another actually may improve outcomes," Mount Sinai Dr. Nicole Bouvier told CBS News. 

Next Up


Walter Mondale dies at age of 93

His death was confirmed by family on Monday.

National Guard

Man charged in connection to shooting that injured National Guard troops

Four soldiers were inside a military vehicle that was shot at.

Chauvin trial

Walz declares emergency in Twin Cities, bringing in police from Ohio and Nebraska

The governor has asked the Legislature for emergency funding for the additional police.

derek chauvin court - closing arguments

Closing arguments in Derek Chauvin trial: Here's what was said

The jury listened to lengthy presentations from the prosecution and defense.


Man, 55, airlifted to a hospital after hit-and-run in Granite Falls

The passenger in the vehicle told police about the incident.

Minneapolis, unrest

Facebook labels Minneapolis 'high-risk,' will remove posts that incite violence

Facebook will remove posts that call for weapons to be brought to Minneapolis and anything that celebrates George Floyd's death.


After being sued, MyPillow is now suing Dominion Voting Systems

The company's lawsuit claims the voting system suppressed free speech and hurt its business relationships.

Chet Holmgren

Chet Holmgren makes his decision ... and it's Gonzaga

The Minnesota basketball phenom is following the footsteps of Jalen Suggs.

Sarah Glover

MPR News hires NBC's Sarah Glover as new managing editor

The experienced journalist was the first to serve two terms as president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

football play

Watch: Sixth-grader with cerebral palsy makes touchdown in Detroit Lakes

Kale Hannahs' classmates made sure he got a chance to play during recess.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, April 19

The latest from Minnesota health officials.


novel coronavirus, covid-19, sars-cov-2

Coronavirus: What antibody testing can and can't tell Minnesota

Minnesota has not yet rolled out widespread antibody testing.

coronavirus, covid-19, doctor

U of M, Mayo Clinic testing provides hope for Minnesota in COVID-19 fight

Both institutions are in the process of preparing to deploy the tests to the public.

coronavirus, sars-cov-2

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, June 26

Approximately 15,000 tests were analyzed in the latest reporting period.

coronavirus, COVID-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, June 10

The assumed COVID-19 deaths jumped by 20 in the new reporting period.

coronavirus, sars-cov-2

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, September 1

1,340 of Minnesota's 1,823 deaths were residents of long-term care facilities.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, November 2

There are now 774 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Minnesota.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, November 4

There are now more than 900 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Minnesota.

coronavirus, doctor, nurse, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, July 13

3.5% of tests in the reporting period were positive for COVID-19.