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Researchers have uncovered antibody markers in people's blood that may predict whether a COVID-19 vaccine is working, NPR reports. It adds that such markers could speed future vaccine development.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Peter Gilbert and his colleagues examined neutralizing and binding antibody levels among individuals who received Moderna's vaccine and who subsequently developed COVID-19 and those who were vaccinated and did not later develop disease. As they report in a preprint posted to MedRxiv, they found that, as expected, antibody levels tended to be lower among vaccinated individuals who later contracted COVID-19.

This, Gilbert tells NPR, is a key finding, as  it "could be used as the basis for authorization and approval of vaccine candidates without needing to do these trials with 40,000 people that take a long time and a lot of expense to complete."

He cautions at USA Today, though, that the findings don't mean people can go out and get their blood tested to gauge their protection level. As the University of California San Francisco's Alan Wu notes at USA Today, neutralizing antibodies are only part of the immune defense system, as T cells also have a role.