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Antibody presence: A key to better understanding COVID-19?

These tests can show how many have had coronavirus and who may have immune systems primed to potentially fight re-infection.

ATLANTA — What are antibodies and why would we want to test for them in a large portion of the population during the novel coronavirus pandemic?

Antibodies, which are proteins that help fight off infections and diseases, are like the building blocks of your immune system. Each antibody currently in your system was created in response to an infection you’ve had at some point in your lifetime.

Our immune systems respond by creating specific antibodies that destroy a virus or pathogen.

RELATED: CDC, Georgia DPH working together on antibody testing investigation

But the virus that causes COVID-19 is different because it’s a “novel virus,” meaning new. There isn’t a single person on the planet who already had COVID-19 antibodies, meaning none of us already had them to help our immune systems fight it.

So far, COVID-19 has claimed over 61,000 lives in the United States and more than 1,000 in Georgia. There are now 26,000 confirmed cases in the state, as well.

RELATED: 'Have faith': After 30 days in hospital, COVID-19 patient finally released

Ultimately, our bodies now have to create their own new virus-fighting proteins to destroy the coronavirus.

So what about the actual antibody tests?

In New York, preliminary results from phase one of the state’s antibody tests showed 13.9 percent of their population has COVID-19 antibodies.

RELATED: Reports suggest many may have had coronavirus with no symptoms

As for Georgia, survey teams will visit randomly selected homes in Fulton and DeKalb counties between April 28 and May 4, asking residents about their health and to voluntarily submit blood samples for antibody tests.

Although there’s still not enough evidence to suggest accuracy of “immunity passports," testing a person’s blood for COVID-19 antibody presence can not only show how many people have been infected with the novel virus but also who may already have immune systems primed to potentially fight re-infection.

RELATED: What's the difference between a COVID-19 test and an antibody test?

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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