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Coronavirus antibody tests could be the key to reopening Italy’s economy

Bologna, Italy — In the fight against coronavirus, this may be the next frontier: testing blood for crucial antibodies that could be a sign of immunity. It takes just 15 minutes to find out if a patient has antibodies, antibodies that could save a life. They show that a person has been exposed to the…

Coronavirus antibody tests could be the key to reopening Italy’s economy

Bologna, Italy — In the fight against coronavirus, this may be the next frontier: testing blood for crucial antibodies that could be a sign of immunity. It takes just 15 minutes to find out if a patient has antibodies, antibodies that could save a life. They show that a person has been exposed to the virus, and is probably no longer in danger of getting sick or transmitting the disease.Now, with Italy’s economy under threat of collapse after a month-long lockdown, the government says it’s working on solutions to getting people back to work.One governor wants to issue “licenses” allowing those with immunity to return to their jobs.Saying we can’t turn a pandemic into famine, a former prime minister suggests people who are no longer infected carry a “Covid Pass.”One hospital in Bologna is the first to roll out the tests, starting with 18,000 doctors and nurses, according to Dr. Tiziana Lazzarotto, who runs the program at Sant’orsola Hospital.But while politicians are pushing for the tests, doctors say there are still many unknowns, including whether the antibodies mean lasting immunity.And testing citizens at large is at least several weeks away. Moving too quickly would not only be risky, Lazzarotto said but could lead to a second explosion of the virus, in a country that’s already paid an enormous cost.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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