In Italy, Going Back to Work May Depend on Having the Right Antibodies

China has slowly reopened its economy, focusing on preventing another wave of infection arriving from overseas. In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has envisioned a strategy in which younger people, and people who have antibodies showing they have been cured of the virus, can go back to work.The British government has floated the idea of “immunity passports,” though it is still struggling to complete even swab tests for an accurate snapshot of current infection levels, and the virus has not been present long enough in the British population to provide enough antibody data.
Italy, by dint of its early and widespread exposure to the virus, has an opportunity to gain insight into how the virus works and the biological properties that protect against it.Next week, Veneto plans to begin collecting 100,000 blood samples from people across the region — first from thousands of health care workers and then public employees — to study in labs the antibodies of people who have the virus and those who have healed from it.

Nowhere in Italy is the pursuit of the antibody strategy more intense than in Veneto. With its wealth of resources, high-profile consultants and biotech presence, it may now be uniquely positioned to influence the global conversation and provide insights for the rest of the world.

The region sits adjacent to the hard-hit Lombardy region, and one of its towns, Vo’, had Italy’s first fatality from the virus and was one of the first towns in the country to be quarantined.

Vo’ also has a relatively homogeneous genetic pool, which may facilitate research, and it has been widely tested. After the outbreak, officials there took the extraordinary step of swab-testing the entire population of 3,000, including people without symptoms.

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