Hyderabad: In general, an antibody test (serological test) for Covid-19 is performed in specialized labs, and to get results it takes anywhere from 24 hours to several days.
But a new paper test developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shown that it takes only 10 minutes to find the level of neutralizing antibodies in the blood. The easy-to-use test enables people to measure their immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection in minutes with zero hassle, that too from the comfort of your home.
Researchers used lateral flow technology to deliver results faster. It is the same technology that is used in home pregnancy kits. The researchers have applied for a patent on the new technology and are looking to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are now scouting for a suitable diagnostic partner to manufacture the test kits.
The study ‘Direct capture of neutralized RBD enables rapid point-of-care assessment of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titer’ was published in the journal Cell Reports Methods on August 4.
“Among the general population, many people probably want to know how well protected they are,” said Hojun Li, one of the lead authors, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, US.
“But I think where this test might make the biggest difference is for anybody who is receiving chemotherapy, anybody who’s on immunosuppressive drugs for rheumatologic disorders or autoimmune diseases, and for anybody who’s elderly or doesn’t mount good immune responses in general,” Li said.
The new prototype contains a finger-prick device to draw blood from the fingertip. The blood obtained is then mixed with viral RBD proteins, which are labeled with micro gold particles, in a buffer tube.
It is then allowed to incubate for 10 minutes. After which, drops of the blood sample are transferred onto the strip that contains two lines. One of the lines that capture viral RBD proteins will light up if the blood sample contains higher antibody levels (neutralizing antibodies).
A smartphone app can also be used to quantify the intensity of the line and to determine the ratios of RBD proteins (both neutralizing and infectious proteins). A high ratio indicates that the sample has enough antibodies in the blood to fight infection. A low ratio specifies that an individual needs a booster dose.
People who are vulnerable to infection may take additional preventive measures like wearing a mask, using sanitizers, following social distancing, and so on to protect themselves if they have low antibody levels.