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Germany mulls mass testing for coronavirus immunity

Kate Martyr
March 27, 2020

Scientists in Germany are preparing to carry out a test to find out who has already developed antibodies to fight off the novel coronavirus. The results could help life in Germany to get back to normal.

A volunteer holds vials of blood samples
Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Researchers in Germany could begin mass testing for immunity against the novel coronavirus as early as April, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

The respected weekly news magazine said the test results would show how many people have been infected and developed antibodies — the body's "memory" about how to fight a virus  —  as well as more accurate data about how many people have been killed out of all those infected.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: 'Clinical tests' in Germany soon

Gerard Krause from the Helmholz Center for Infection Research is coordinating the testing efforts, Der Spiegel saidtogether with several of the country's scientific and health bodies including the Robert-Koch institute.

If researchers get the go-ahead from government health authorities, they would conduct the first tests using blood samples from 100,000 people with tests then repeated periodically. The first results could be back by the end of next month.

3D printers tackling the coronavirus

Immunity certificates

Scientists believe that the results of the study could make it easier to decide when schools can be re-opened, larger events can go ahead and people can go back to work.

Read more: Up to 30% of coronavirus cases asymptomatic

"Those with immunity could be issued with a type of immune-certificate that could, for example, allow them to be exempt from the restrictions on their activities," said Krause.

But there are still some problems with the Sars-Cov-2 antibody test as it still occasionally shows up other coronaviruses – which 90% of adults are already immune to. Scientists are looking into developing a more reliable test within two to three months.

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