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Austin-based medical technology company Babson Diagnostics announced last week it will launch a local COVID-19 antibody testing service, but founder and CEO Eric Olson cautioned that it is still under development.

"There's this significant urgency, but there's also some confusion around what's available, and what the quality of the available tests actually is," he said.


Babson's announcement follows the news that many local healthcare providers—including Total Men's Primary Care, at-home urgent care Remedy and full-spectrum practice Victory Medical—are already offering antibody tests, promising results in as few as 15 minutes. But the available antibody tests for COVID-19 are imperfect.

Experts caution that only one antibody test—manufactured by the North Carolina company Cellex—has been approved for this use by the Food and Drug Administration and some may give false hope to patients looking for answers or proof of immunity.

Antibody testing, sometimes called a serum test or serology, works like a pregnancy test, indicating whether certain antibodies associated with a disease are present in a blood sample. It typically takes 10 to 12 days after a person has been exposed to the coronavirus to develop antibodies that will register on a test. As a result, the intended audience is patients who are no longer symptomatic—or never were.

"People are very interested in knowing if they've had the virus and now have the antibodies," a spokesperson for Total Men's wrote in an email.

Dr. Brian Metzger, a member of the Austin Public Health COVID-19 expert advisory panel and an infectious disease consultant to the Texas County Medical Society, wrote in an April 15 letter to TCMS members: "Anyone who is marketing [to] you with a serology test that is claiming to be FDA approved (other than the one test that has been granted [emergency use authorization]), they are doing so illegally."

Total Men's, Victory Medical and Remedy are using tests manufactured by Chinese companies—though none of them are claiming FDA approval.

Austin Public Health wrote in a statement emailed to Austonia that it is not using antibody tests at this time. "Those interested in obtaining an antibody test that is not FDA approved are taking a risk with the accuracy of that test," the statement reads.

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told Travis County commissioners Tuesday that there are around 70 different antibody tests available, with varying levels of efficacy. "Some of them have substantial cross-reactivity, so it may show positive [results] because you had a non-COVID-19 coronavirus," he said. Other coronaviruses include those that cause the common cold, according to the MIT Technology Review.

Babson said antibody testing has many potential applications in relation to COVID-19, including helping to identify individuals who have developed antibodies—and possibly immunity—and so are best suited for work on the front lines.

"The use of serology is well established," Babson said, explaining that such tests help diagnose HIV, hepatitis and other diseases. "How to make a test that detects the [COVID-19] antibodies is new."

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Austonia file photo. (Christa McWhirter/Austonia)

Police have arrested one of two suspects involved in a mass shooting at Austin's Sixth Street in the early morning hours on Saturday, leaving 14 people injured and two in critical condition.

The arrest was made by the Austin Police Department and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force. One suspect is still at large.

Police started receiving 911 phone calls at 1:24 a.m about a man that fired shots into a large crowd, and responded to a chaotic scene on the 400 block of East Sixth Street. Detectives are surveying video footage captured by bystanders and cameras on the scene to identify the suspect.

The Austin Police Department has narrowed down their search to two male suspects and believes there was "some type of disturbance" between the two parties.

No deaths have been reported. Fourteen victims are receiving treatment in a hospital in stable condition with one treated in an emergency room; two are in critical condition.

According to Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon, "almost all" of the victims are innocent bystanders but police have not ruled anyone out at this time.

Shooting on 6th Street Austin Texas 6-12-2021 (Aftermath) youtu.be


The shooting occurred on the weekend of the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally. With lots of people downtown, police say it was difficult to get EMS in and out of the scene. Police arrived while the scene was still an "active threat," officers "immediately began lifesaving measures" and drove six victims to the hospital in their squad cars, said Chacon, and four were transported in ambulances.

Chacon said that the incident is believed to be isolated, and they optimistic they will be successful in getting the two suspects into custody. Multiple departments, including APD, the FBI, Texas DPS and the ATF, are involved in the investigation.

Austin police are also requesting state troopers for patrol assistance in the coming days. Chacon stressed staffing issues are increasingly making responding to emergency calls "very hard."

"Overall, we remain a safe city," Chacon said. "Also keep in mind when you come downtown, you need to be safety conscious. Be vigilant of your environment and your surroundings."

Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call 911 or 512-472-TIPS.

This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. to include new information and will be updated as more details are revealed.

Austin police are investigating a homicide in North Austin where a woman was shot and killed, just hours after a mass shooting in Downtown Austin hospitalized 14 people.

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