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Oxford scientists release cheap, quick COVID-19 antibody test; Prof Malavige among researchers

31 March 2021 05:31 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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An international research team led by Oxford University scientists has developed a portable test for antibodies that fight the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, University of Oxford said.

Head of Department of Immunology and Molecular Sciences in Sri Jayawardenapura university Prof. Neelika Malavige, who is part of the research team said she was so privileged to be part of this team and added they had carried over 3000 of these assays in the laboratory as a part of two big research projects.

The test, which spots the presence of virus-fighting antibodies rather than a coronavirus infection, can be adapted to work on blood from a finger prick – making it quick and easy to use.

The research team, which includes scientists from different parts of the world has trialled the test on patients with COVID-19, but now hope to adapt it to identify those who have successfully generated antibodies after a vaccine, versus those who may need a booster.

The scientists also hope that the large-scale use of their tests might help researchers and policy-makers track levels of protective immunity in the community.

There are already several commercial tests, which can detect whether someone has antibodies against the novel coronavirus, but these tests are expensive and usually need a central laboratory to analyse them. This is especially a problem in low-income countries.

The test also does not require any special equipment or take a long time to show the results, and is accurate. It correctly identifies coronavirus spike protein antibodies 90% of the time, with less than a 1% false positive rate.

Study lead Professor Alain Townsend said: “All we need to do is mix a low-cost reagent with a small blood sample, and the clumping of the red cells after one hour shows whether the blood sample contained antibodies against the novel coronavirus or not.”

The team have also developed new versions of the reagent that that can test for antibodies to the new variant viruses through a recent generous donation from a local donor.

For ease of use so that the tests can be carried out in a variety of locations, even at home. The researchers note that they can be adapted to work using blood from a finger prick sample. They now plan to use this very simple test in future trials to see if it can identify those who are protected against COVID-19 from those who may need a booster vaccination.

Antibodies are large proteins that lock onto and help the body’s immune system fight off disease-causing organisms, such as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Both infection with the virus and vaccines can generate antibodies.

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