With an eye toward improving accuracy and access to testing, researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill have unveiled a new antibody test for Covid-19 that they hope will improve virus surveillance around the globe.
UNC School of Medicine researchers published work this week on a new blood test to identify the novel coronavirus strain that causes Covid-19 antibodies. Researchers say the “new kind of antibody test” is a “simplified experimental assay that could be ramped up to test thousands of blood samples at labs that do not have the resources of commercial labs and large academic medical centers.”
The work was published in Science Immunology.
“Our assay is extremely specific for antibodies to the virus that causes Covid-19, which is not the case for some currently available antibody tests,” said Aravinda de Silva, a UNC professor of microbiology and immunology and co-senior author of the work.
According to UNC, the researchers are now working to “streamline” the test into an “inexpensive assay” that could reduce the test time from the current standard of 4 to 5 hours to close to 70 minutes “without compromising quality.”
A university statement said researchers have received requests from scientists “across the country and around the world for assistance with establishing this new assay within their research laboratories.”
“We don’t see our research as a means to replace commercial tests,” de Silva said “Commercial tests are critical, especially for making decisions about the clinical management of individual patients. But it’s too early in the pandemic to know if the commercial assays are suitable for identifying people who experienced very mild or no disease after infection or if the assays tell us anything about protective immunity, as researchers are still learning about this virus.”
The news is just the latest development of among Triangle researchers working to fight against the pandemic.
Last month, Duke University researchers announced their own antibody test in partnership with private industry, saying it could produce results in less than an hour.
The country’s race to create antibody tests reached its first major milestone in early April when Research Triangle Park’s Cellex became the first company to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization for an antibody test.