Rapid test ‘identifies antibody effectiveness against Covid variants’

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Scientists say the test could potentially tell doctors how safe a patient is from the new forms and what is currently circulating in a community

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Researchers have created a rapid test that they say can identify antibody effectiveness against COVID-19 variants.


A new study shows that the test can quickly and easily assess how well someone’s antibodies fight infection with several types of the coronavirus, such as the delta and newly discovered Omicron variants.

Scientists say the test could potentially tell doctors how protected a patient is from the new variant and what is currently circulating in a community.

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It can also help doctors identify which monoclonal antibody to treat a COVID patient with.

Cameron Wolfe, Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in the US, said: “We currently have no fast way to really assess the variants, neither their presence in an individual nor the ability of the antibodies to detect our antibodies. is near.

“It is a frightening fear that, as we successfully vaccinate more and more people, a variant may emerge that more fundamentally avoids vaccine-induced antibody neutralization.

“And if that fear came true, if Omicron turned out to be a worst-case scenario, how would we know quickly?”

When developing a test for coronavirus antibodies and biomarkers, researchers realized that being able to detect the ability of antibodies to neutralize specific variants may have some benefits.

He built a test around this idea.

Ashutosh Chilkoti, Alan L. Kaganov, Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Duke, said: “It only took us a week or two to incorporate the Delta version into our testing, and for it to easily incorporate the Omicron version can be expanded.

“We just need this type of spike protein, which many groups around the world, including our group at Duke, are working feverishly to produce.”

The test is called the COVID-19 variant spike-ACE2-competitive antibody neutralization assay, or covariance-scan for short.

The test rests on a polymer brush coating that acts as a non-stick coating to prevent anything but the desired biomarker from attaching to the test slide when wet.

Researchers say this non-stick shield is very effective and makes the test incredibly sensitive even to the low levels of its target.

The approach allows researchers to print different molecular traps on different areas of the slide to capture multiple biomarkers at once.

Fluorescent human ACE2 proteins — cellular targets of the virus’s spike proteins — are printed on a slide.

The spike proteins specific to each type of COVID-19 are also printed at different specific locations.

When the test is run, the ACE2 proteins dissociate from the slide and are captured by the spike proteins attached to the slide, causing the slide to glow.

In the presence of neutralizing antibodies, spike proteins cannot capture the ACE2 protein, reducing the brightness of the slide, and indicating the effectiveness of the antibody.

By printing different variants of the COVID-19 spike protein on different parts of a slide, researchers can see how effective the antibodies are at preventing each type from latching together on its human cellular target.

The technology was tested in several different ways, with researchers trying monoclonal antibodies obtained either from real-life patients or from Regeneron’s commercial prophylactic treatment.

They also tested plasma taken from healthy vaccinated people and those currently infected with the virus.

While they produce similar results, the main difference between CoVariant-SCAN and current methods is the speed and ease with which it can produce results.

Typical current approaches require isolating live virus and culturing cells, which can take 24 h or longer and require a variety of safety precautions and specially trained technicians.

The researchers say that while CoVariant-SCAN does not require a live virus, it is easy to use in most settings and takes less than an hour to produce accurate results, potentially only 15 minutes.

The findings have been published in the journal Science Advances.


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