Top general: Military to test troops for coronavirus antibodies

Top general: Military to test troops for coronavirus antibodies
© Aaron Schwartz

The U.S. military is planning to test troops for coronavirus antibodies, the nation’s top general said Thursday.

Speaking at a virtual town hall, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the testing would start with service members in the most critical missions, such as nuclear forces.

“We’re doing some antibody testing right now, and we’re expanding that,” Milley said. “We’ll be doing antibody testing for critical tier one units, such as those who go into subs or the nuclear triad or some of our quick-reaction forces. So the short answer is, yes, for the antibody testing.”

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Antibody tests, also known as serologic tests, are meant to determine whether someone has had the coronavirus in the past by checking blood for proteins that develop after fighting the virus.

While many experts agree it is likely that coronavirus antibodies bestow some level of immunity against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, research is still needed to prove what level of antibodies are required to be immune, how long immunity lasts and whether someone with antibodies can still spread the virus.

Additionally, several oversight bodies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned the coronavirus antibody tests have produced a high rate of false positives.

In his comments Thursday, Milley said antibody testing in the military could also be helpful for an experimental COVID-19 treatment known as convalescent plasma therapy.

“We may want to ask you to stick your arm out and donate blood,” he said. “What that can then do is help others who are severely ill, and if we can do that, then we’ll be on a good path toward getting some really powerful therapeutics.”

During a trip to South Carolina on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperHouse panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal House panel votes to ban Confederate flag at Pentagon property Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE told reporters he had taken a coronavirus antibody test but did not have the results yet, according to The Associated Press.