COVID-19 ‘Game Changer’: Christus Health’s New Antibodies Test Can Detect Who’s Been Infected

The Irving-based not-for-profit health system said it's the first in the communities it serves to offer the new screening tool.

Leading scientists across the country are saying that antibody-based tests are essential in taking on the global COVID-19 pandemic. They could help identify those who have been infected or are immune, which, as stated in the New England Journal of Medicine, “would be a game-changer in restarting parts of the economy.” 

That’s why a new announcement from Irving-headquartered Christus Health is being hailed as a major move in the coronavirus fight.

Irving-headquartered Christus Health, a Catholic not-for-profit healthcare system, is now offering a new rapid (approx. 10-minute) screening tool that can detect who has been infected with COVID-19 and who potentially carries protective antibodies.

[Image: via Christus Health]

The tests will initially only be administered to Christus Health’s front-line associates and caregivers, like doctors and nurses.

The Christus team started assessing the test’s reliability a few weeks ago. Now, screening tests are being deployed in Christus’ hospitals and sites across the U.S. and Latin America. Christus has more than 600 centers, including community hospitals, walk-in clinics, and other health ministries.

Christus said it’s the first in the communities it serves to do this, which means it’s leading the nation in advanced COVID-19 antibody testing.

“CHRISTUS Health is a safe place to receive care, with high-reliability processes and procedures for infection prevention and mitigating the spread of illness,” Dr. Sam Bagchi, Christus’ EVP and chief clinical officer, said in a statement. “Beginning today, we are adding the unprecedented additional layer of antibody screening to help survey for asymptomatic COVID-19 infections among patients and caregivers.”

Hospitalized patients can also be tested if the clinical team believes they may have been infected with COVID-19 or if they are scheduled for an urgent surgery. Dr. Bagchi said this will help the Christus team know if a patient has COVID-19 before they start having symptoms or might normally be tested.

“People should not put off urgent and emergent procedures, and should continue to seek the care they need. We know that, regardless of COVID-19, heart attacks and strokes have not stopped,” Dr. Bagchi said. “We need to be able to treat people who urgently need to be in an operating room.”

The screening solution is an addition to the ongoing FDA-approved PCR tests many providers—including Christus—perform to diagnose patients. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can detect small amounts of viral genetic material that might be infected with COVID-19.

“We are screening our associates so we can test for asymptomatic spread within our administrative offices; this could be part of the way forward for the ‘new normal’ and part of the solution to opening the economy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area again,” Dr. Bagchi said. “We are tremendously excited about what this will mean for our organization and for the many communities and people we serve.”

Christus Health has around 1,000 associates in its DFW headquarters, and more than 45,000 in its entire community. It’s sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Houston and San Antonio and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and has a mission to “extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to every individual.”

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