Researchers at UB to conduct antibody testing in WNY

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Researchers at the University at Buffalo are joining the fight against coronavirus by developing antibody tests. The antibody testing they’re conducting in their labs, could take months to complete, but Pathology Department Chair Dr. John Tomaszewski says his team is dedicated to finding a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this disease.

“I’ve been really impressed by how people have risen to the occasion to do whatever it takes,” he said.

Tomaszewski and his team at University at Buffalo’s Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will begin conducting antibody testing.

“I’ve been gratified by all the people in the laboratory and how they’ve risen to the occasion we were able to utilize the task and partnerships and do a lot of things that we really would not in normal course of work do,” Tomaszewski said.

He says his team has already been working hard testing and researching coronavirus and plans on continuing that to help fight this pandemic.

“I’ll tell you it’s been quite a ride for the last 6 weeks,” he said. “So I’ve been doing pathology lab testing and medicine for the last 40 years. I’m a senior person here, and I’ve never been as challenged in practice and development.”

Some of the pressing questions the medical community wants answers to are how long might someone be immune to covid-19 after contracting it and when can someone safely return to work after an infection?

The research to get those answers is taking place here in Buffalo by Tomaszewski and his team at University at Buffalo’s Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The work is being done in tandem with the Wadsworth Center in Albany, the state’s public health lab.

Tomaszewski said during an interview with News 4 Monday that the antibody testing they are conducting in labs, along with the cohort studies they will undertake, will take months to complete.

But there may be some earlier advantages to the work that the nation can capitalize on, including when frontline workers who beat the infection can safely return to work without the likelihood of infecting someone else.

“The whole re-entry conversation will be advantaged by knowing a whole lot more of this information,” Tomaszewski said.

In fact, that is the first step they plan to address.

President Donald Trump is leaving the decision to states of when to re-open for business to jumpstart the crippled economy.

Therefore, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that the antibodies from thousands of covid-19 survivors will be tested to obtain these critical answers.

First, the focus will be on frontline workers, such as doctors, nurses and first responders. But Tomaszewski said he’d like to extend the testing to nursing home facilities that are hotspots for the disease.

The state has reported at least 50 nursing home deaths in Erie County and more than 2,600 statewide.

“It would help us manage the epidemic as it is now,” he said.

“This is not going to go away. There is going to be an echo of infections, but it will be less in numbers.”

Ultimately, Tomaszewski said he is confident they will learn more about the period of immunity for those who survived the disease. The study will determine how many individuals got covid-19 a second time and how much time elapsed from the first infection.

“What we don’t want to do is jump the gun here,” he said.

“We don’t know that you are immune at all.”

He said the influenza virus mutates a lot. As a result, each year there seems to be a new vaccine for the flu based on last season’s data.

But early findings suggest that covid-19 may not mutate at the same frequency as the flu.

“So, we may be in a better spot than with the influenza,” he said.

Tomaszewski gave a “huge shout out” to all the laboratory workers helping fight this epidemic.

“The people on the other side of one of those tubes are like dozens and dozens and dozens of people who have to get your specimen processed into a machine, get it created, delivered and understood, so I am thankful to all those people.”

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