Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are touting an accurate antibody test for COVID-19 with lower costs than those currently in use.
According to a news release, the test, developed in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate than the standard antibody tests in use right now and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at a lower overall cost.
The researchers believe that its near-term use can be for identifying the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and for measuring how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response. Additional uses down the line include assessing relative immunity in those previously invected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and identifying asymptomatic individuals with high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the virus.
“This is potentially game-changing when it comes to serological testing for COVID-19 immunity,” research team co-leader Jason Lavinder said in the release. “We can now use highly scalable, automated testing to examine antibody-based immunity to COVID-19 for hundreds of donors in a single run. With increased levels of automation, limited capacity for serological testing can be rapidly addressed using this approach.”
The team developed ELISA assays that look at whether antibodies against specific SARS-CoV-2 proteins are present and produce a quantitative amount of those antibodies. They can be implemented and performed with relative ease in a high-throughput fashion and are widely available and extensively used in clinical labs around the world, the researchers said.
In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they found that the ELISA tests had an 80% or higher probability of comparable antibody level to virus-neutralizing (VN) levels at or above the FDA-recommended levels for COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
“This research required a perfect storm at the university, which included the extraordinary combination of a world-famous coronavirus structural biology lab, a nimble and passionate visiting army scientist, and the highest echelons of the university’s administration who were committed to bringing our extensive research programs to bear on the COVID-19 crisis,” co-leader Greg Ippolito said.