Scientists have developed a rapid test to detect antibodies in COVID-19 patients that specifically block the novel coronavirus, an advance that may lead to faster methods for estimating the population level infection rate of the disease.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, a rapid test to detect neutralising antibodies — capable of blocking the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 — is urgently needed to facilitate monitoring of infection rates, as well as to determine vaccine efficacy during clinical trials.
In order to facilitate this, the researchers, including those from the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, developed a new assay which is much faster than conventional tests for neutralising antibodies, taking only one or two hours to complete.
They said the new method, validated in two groups of patients who had COVID-19 from Singapore and Nanjing, China, does not require the use of the live virus.
According to the scientists, the current gold standard assay for detecting neutralising antibodies requires the handling of live SARS-CoV-2 in a biosafety level three laboratory containment facility, and is time-consuming, taking two-four days to complete.