Vitalant Performing Coronavirus Antibody Testing On All Blood Donations

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sharon Tupper thinks she may have had Coronavirus.

“Back in January, I had something, but never thought much about it till all the news started,” she said.

Now, by donating blood, she may be able to find out.

“Many people feel, ‘Oh, I must have had coronavirus back in January, February,’” says Dr. Joseph Kiss, medical director at Vitalant.

Vitalant, formerly known as the Central Blood Bank, is doing something new with all donated blood.

“As of June 1, we are testing all successful blood donations for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus,” he says.

This is an add-on to the standard series of viral tests already performed on blood.

It’s not a diagnostic test to tell if you have it, but a recovery test to tell if you had it, by checking for the body’s immune system response against a provocative part of the virus.

While it doesn’t test for neutralizing antibodies, the type that block infection, “there is a correlation between this test and the neutralizing antibody test,” Dr. Kiss said. “The FDA has reviewed it. It’s a reliable test.”

The results come two weeks after your donation, but can’t tell you whether you’re immune.

“We honestly don’t know how long the antibodies strength will last,” says Dr. Kiss.

If you do test positive for antibodies, you could be eligible to donate convalescent plasma, which can be given to people who are sick with COVID-19.

The testing will also be analyzed for how much illness there is in the community.

“We can get a snapshot here in our region of a percentage of normal, healthy people that are positive,” Dr. Kiss says.

While Sharon is here to help the community.

“I think it’s great I get the extra test,” she says.

The antibody testing is a limited time offer. For now, it’s only through the summer.