April 6, 2020

Covid-19 roundup: FDA approves first antibody test for new coronavirus

Daily Briefing
    • The Massachusetts-based biotech company E25Bio has developed a diagnostic test for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, that delivers results in about 15 minutes. The test, which is faster and would cost less than the standard polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) for the disease, would allow clinicians to isolate infected patients more quickly. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have tested the product on 50 patients over the last two weeks. They said the test's results are promising and could help E25Bio obtain emergency use authorization from FDA (Saltzman, Boston Globe, 3/31).

    • Students and physicians at Harvard Medical School established an initiative that translates evidence-based Covid-19 information into more than 35 languages. The initiative, called the Covid-19 Health Literacy Project, aims to bridge a Covid-19 information gap for non-English speakers in the United States. The translated resources are available online and in pamphlets at local health departments and community-based organizations (Zia, STAT News, 4/1).

    • UnitedHealthcare on Tuesday announced it is waiving cost-sharing and copayment requirements for Covid-19 treatments through May 31 for members of its commercial, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid plans. The insurer also said it would waive cost-sharing requirements for in-network telehealth visits not related to Covid-19 for such members until June 18. Daily Briefing is published by Advisory Board, a division of Optum, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth Group separately owns UnitedHealthcare (Japsen, Forbes, 3/31).

    • Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday said the company will ship FDA-approved ventilators to hospitals that are in dire need of the equipment at no cost. Tesla did not respond to Reuters' request for comment on how many ventilators the company could send hospitals or how the company will prioritize the shipments (Vengattil/Rana, Reuters, 3/31).

    • Blood donation centers in the United States are preparing to collect plasma from people who have fully recovered from Covid-19, after AABB guidelines released Tuesday said the plasma could be used to treat people infected with the new coronavirus. The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, involves injecting the plasma from recovered patients into those currently infected with the virus. Studies have suggested the treatment may help reduce symptoms and the risk of death during previous coronavirus outbreaks, but its efficacy in combating the new coronavirus is not yet known (Aleccia, Kaiser Health News, 4/1).

    • FDA on Thursday approved the first antibody test for the new coronavirus for use in the United States. The new test uses a finger prick of blood to detect protective antibodies from the virus. The test will tell doctors whether a patient has ever been exposed to the new coronavirus, which could mean they have immunity against infection. The test also could help researchers have a better notion of how widespread the new coronavirus is in the United States (Mandavilli, New York Times, 4/2).

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