Augusta University scientists study COVID antibodies

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:28 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta University scientists are studying how long antibodies last for COVID-19 in different scenarios with different strains. The goal is to make the vaccines better and find out when we all need to start getting booster shots. With the Delta variant causing a spike in cases we went to find out what they’ve found so far.

It’s called the Sparta Study and their original goal was to find out how long antibodies stay in your system. But now that the virus is mutating the Sparta Study is looking to answer more questions.

“Our interest is focused on what we call escape variants so are there mutations in the virus which is also making the vaccinated individual infected,” said Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, director, Gem Lab, Medical College of Georgia.

It’s part of a giant research project with data collected from all the way in California and Tennessee to right here at AU Health. The $1.9 million study is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Each month scientists compare saliva and blood samples from 500 participants. They compare those naturally infected to those with vaccine antibodies to see the quantity and quality of the antibody.

“But the newer Delta strain or Delta Plus strain the natural immunity does not have that much capacity to neutralize the virus,” said Kolhe.

Kolhe’s results show everyone’s response is different. How long antibodies stay and how strong they are, those who are vaccinated have more antibodies but how long they last varies.

In our area, only 30 percent of people are vaccinated. Kolhe says, about 80 percent would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity.

“You might be a small pocket but you’re a small pocket in the pool so if that particular pocket is going to get contaminated the entire pool is going to get contaminated,” said Kolhe.

Their ultimate goal is to help make the vaccines and future booster shots more effective, and he’s proud of the progress that’s been made so far right here in our backyard. One person spending entire life versus an entire generation of people study an entire year has made a pretty significant contribution.

The newest numbers of which variants were most common are coming out in the next few weeks, we’ll make sure to update you then. For now to learn more or join the Sparta trial, email

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