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The holy grail right now: a cheap and easy test for coronovirus anti-bodies

· Health

To minimize the economic impact of the virus, we need to know who has already had it and this is the only way to find out...

In a recent press conference, the Chief medical adviser of the UK government, Prof. Chris Whitty said that a test to show whether or not people have already had the coronavirus would be "transformational." This is the kind of talk reserved for speaking about the cure. So why call transformational something that concerns people who are no longer sick?

The problem with this virus is that a lot of the cases of the virus seem to be quite mild, even completely asymptomatic. This is a really good problem to have, of course, as it means fewer people seriously suffer from it. However, it also means that many people who may have caught the virus will not realize it even by the time they are fully cured of it. Add to that many people who actually do have the symptoms but cannot get tested because the government does not provide the tests to them, like here in the UK right now.

Knowing exactly how many people were infected by the virus would enable us to establish much more precisely the exact proportion of those who are actually seriously affected by it. Among other things, this would enable a much more effective, data-driven approaches to slowing the spread of the disease.

However, the social and economic impact of having such a test would be even more profound. It could literally be the greatest tool for minimizing the damage of the virus to the global economy.

Before we have a proper vaccine, we can best minimize the number of infections through the now-famous social distancing. The basic idea there is to prevent sick people from transmitting the disease to healthy people who will then spread it to still more healthy individuals. So we try to isolate everyone, thereby effectively pulling most of us from our normal economic activities.

Yet, it is highly likely that those people who have already had the disease develop antibodies against it, thereby building a natural immunity against it. They can no longer get sick again, at least now for a while. The current hypothesis is that such immunity could least for at least two years. Knowing that somebody is immune means that they no longer need to minimize their social contacts: as they can no longer get sick, they can no longer spread the disease and therefore they can safely return back to their normal life – and work. This is very important, especially if the virus will not not taper off with the onset of a warmer weather and we will therefore need to keep the social distancing measures for many months.

Hence the need for a quick, cheap, and easy anti-body test for the coronavirus. In an ideal case here in the West this would be something that any of us could order online, receive with the next day delivery, administer at home and get the results on the spot– or be able to mail the test for processing and get the results online. In the less developed countries, it would probably need to have the form of a simple and cheap device that nurses or social works could bring with them and do instant testing in the field.

There are many extremely smart people working on such tests around the world at this very moment. But not all of them have access to the right expertise, resources and funding. A single good connection could dramatically accelerate their work and give us access to this much needed testing fast.

Making such connections for amazing scientists and engineers in order to bring their breakthrough science from lab to impact has always been the mission of our non-profit initiative, the Druid Collective. So if you know someone who could benefit from this, please bring them to us quickly. Together, we will conquer this virus.

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