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Most of the 300 HUP healthcare workers tested did not have coronavirus antibodies. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Immunologists at Penn developed a new coronavirus antibody test to determine the infection rate among healthcare workers in mid-April.

Led by Penn Microbiology professor Scott Hensley, the team tested 300 healthcare workers for antibodies, NBC Philadelphia reported. Results of the Penn study, conducted at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, found that most of the 300 workers tested negative for the antibodies that would indicate infection from the coronavirus, Hensley told NBC. 

Antibodies indicate a person has contracted the coronavirus and recovered, which helps scientists determine the rate of coronavirus infection and recovery in a population. 

Hensley told NBC he hopes to extend the tests to 1,000 Penn Medicine workers in the coming weeks. Though many antibody tests are already on the market, he said most have not undergone the proper screening usually conducted by the FDA. 

"There are so many tests out there right now. It's sort of like the Wild West," Hensley told NBC. 

A donation from Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid and the team's owners funded the research that led to the new antibody test.

Penn researchers have been at the forefront of developing vaccines and testing to counteract viruses. Penn Medicine and the Wistar Institute recently began human testing of a coronavirus vaccine, the second coronavirus vaccine to enter this phase. The vaccine has shown signs of eliciting an immune response in animals.

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