Germany is set to carry out Europe’s first largest coronavirus antibody testing to monitor infection rates and help prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the Robert Koch Institute the first part of the study is to draw on the country’s blood donation services, a second phase will focus on samples from regions with large coronavirus outbreaks and a third stage will consist of a representative study of the country’s broader population.
The institute believes that some people who have had the virus all of whom should now have COVID-19 antibodies in their blood should have immunity from contracting the virus again.
It does however remain unknown as to how long the antibodies last in the body to provide full immunity.
Antibody testing has been seen as a crucial step to reopening public spaces, but the World Health Organization warned on Friday that antibodies can’t guarantee long-term immunity to COVID-19 .
The WHO said antibody tests can show if a person has contracted the virus, but not necessarily if they’re immune to infection.
Science surrounding antibody testing is still developing, too, and concerns have emerged around the tests being inaccurate, rushed, and improperly marketed.
Germany’s antibody testing could help provide more information on how many people have antibodies, at what levels, and what protection they could confer against the novel virus.
After the launch of the program in mid-April, officials expect results sometime in May.
It is expected that at least 5,000 blood samples every 14 days will be collected for examining. Regions such as Bavaria plan to collect around 3,000 samples from representatively selected households.
The antibody test launched last week, and initial results are expected in May.
Germany, which produces most of its own high-quality test kits, is testing for COVID-19 on a greater scale than most countries: an estimated 120,000 tests a day in a nation of 83 million.
The high level of testing has helped Germany slow the spread of the virus and keep deaths low. Authorities estimate more people in Germany now recover from the virus every day than are infected by it.