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Collaborative project underway in Louisville testing health care workers for COVID-19, antibodies

A collaborative project is currently testing thousands of health care workers in Louisville for both COVID-19 and antibodies.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Scientists are starting from the ground up when it comes to COVID-19.

"We're having to build infrastructure, we're having to build knowledge, we're having to build testing capacity," Dr. Rachel Keith, the director of human studies for the Christina Lee Brown Environme Institute and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, said. 

Dr. Keith is leading the Co-Immunity Project for UofL, which is a collaborative research and testing effort along with Norton and Baptist Health. The goal is to gather information very quickly about how the coronavirus spreads.

"When you're thinking about that we're trying to do it in weeks or months, it's pretty astounding," she said. 

In the last two weeks, researchers have been testing health care workers for the virus and for antibodies, planning to collect about 6,000 tests total. The purpose is to better understand how the virus is moving, how it affects a person's body, and what it means long-term. 

"With the antibodies, we can start to see may have had the disease and recovered and then I think everyone is looking towards this idea of immunity from antibodies and we don't have those answers right now," Dr. Keith said. 

Randomized testing in the community is phase two of the project. Scientists hope to collect over 2,000 tests from the community in the first month.

"We want to make sure that we get an accurate representation of everyone who could be a resident in Jefferson County. So doesn't mean that we can test the whole county. it means that we want to get people who live in different parts," Dr. Keith said. 

"By creating this mix of all different types of people, so different races, different sexes, different socio-economic status, we're able to get the best overall picture of COVID, how it may spread in the community, without having to test every single person."

The data will hopefully be compared with other scientists around the country or globally.

"Everyone's lives have changed and understanding it more will hopefully bring us back to a place where we can understand what our new normal will mean," Dr. Keith said. 

The research, when compiled, is intended to provide enough information and understanding of the virus, to inform policy, economic, and health decisions moving forward.

Contact reporter Tyler Emery at temery@WHAS11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@TylerWHAS11) and Facebook. 

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