San Diego Researchers looking for patients who recovered from COVID-19

Posted at 5:16 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 20:16:00-04

La Jolla, CA- (KGTV) San Diego researchers are looking for people who have recovered from COVID-19 who are willing to donate their blood to be screened for antibodies.

Dennis Burton, PhD, is one of the world's leading experts on antibodies. Burton is the chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research. His primary focus was developing vaccines for HIV and other infectious diseases, but now his priority is on the novel coronavirus.

"What we are looking for is for folks who have diagnosed COVID-19 and have recovered. And preferably, we would like individuals who have recovered some time ago. So, ideally even a month, or two months since they had the illness. That gives time for the antibodies to the virus to have matured and become really good. We're after finding really good antibodies," said Burton.

According to Burton, finding patients can be challenging because so many may not realize they were infected.

" We've heard from quite a few people, mostly, though, they were not actually diagnosed. They may well have had COVID-19, but we're not sure," said Burton.

Once they get confirmed patients, the research involves two critical steps.

"One is we clone the antibodies, and test them, first of all, in test tubes basically and see how well, they do against the virus. Then, later we may try them in some model systems. So, that's what we would do, first of all, and if we can find really good antibodies, then it would be up to pharmaceutical companies to make them in large quantities for use in a therapeutic activity that's the first thing," said Burton.

The next step involves using the antibodies to make a vaccine.

"That's a much, much longer process, but it's one that could be important," said Burton.

Burton said there's still a lot to learn.

"There's also challenges in not knowing the behavior of the virus. We're very careful cause we don't really know too much about it. It's only emerged 3 or 4 months ago," said Burton.

Scientists estimate a vaccine could still be at least a year away. In the meantime, Burton said people need to be careful.

"All of these treatments are a ways down the road, the best thing at the moment, is to avoid getting infected as much as you can, so really be very cautious," said Burton.