Beaumont Health is launching what the Southfield-based health system called Monday the country’s largest study on antibodies in the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19.
By collecting voluntary blood samples from across the eight-hospital health system’s 38,000 employees and thousands of affiliates, heath system researchers hope to determine how many have COVID-19 antibodies but never reported symptoms — information needed to learn more about how the virus spreads in communities.
Scientists at the Beaumont Research Institute also want to learn whether antibodies in the blood serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 could be used to treat those who are sick.
The body creates antibodies to fight infections — within three to five days in the case of the novel coronavirus. With some other kinds of infections, antibodies provide immunity to people who had the disease in the past.
Beaumont researchers hope to find out if the presence of antibodies could be used to determine when a person infected by COVID-19 could safely return to work without danger of infecting others, the health system said in a press release.
“In addition to answering key questions on infection spread and the percentage of total asymptomatic cases in a community, we intend to relieve anxiety through a better understanding of the spread of the infection across Beaumont Health,” said Dr. Richard Kennedy, vice president for research at Beaumont Health and director of the Beaumont Research Institute.
Kennedy and other Beaumont researchers plan to release more details about the study during a 1 p.m. media call.
As many as 25% to 50% of people with COVID-19 might not show symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, those individuals could still spread the disease to others.
The study’s principal investigator will be Beaumont’s Director of Infectious Diseases Research Dr. Matthew Sims.
“I believe having antibodies against COVID-19 will protect people from getting infected again and so do many other physicians. In Germany, there is a plan to give people ‘immunity passports’ if they can show they have antibodies to help them get back to work,” Sims said in a statement.
“This study will help prove that antibodies protect those who have them. It is our hope that this study provides a template for others to conduct similar research that will collectively clarify many unknowns of COVID-19.”