American, Finnish and Australian scientists in the fight against the Coronavirus have developed a brand new test that can screen thousands of people a day, provide more information and is cheaper. Their results became known this week and are a major step forward in the fight against the pandemic. Their way of screening is already being used in practice.
To determine whether a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, researchers are currently using a test that looks for genetic material from the virus in a nose or throat swab. The new test looks for antibodies, also called antibodies, against SARS-CoV-2 in our blood.
Antibodies are made by our immune system when there is a foreign substance such as a virus or bacteria invades our body. These antibodies can attach to the invader and render it harmless. In addition, they also ensure that we are protected in the future, should the same virus try to infect us again. Most importantly, antibodies can also be used to detect not only people who are infected, but also to find people who have already been infected. Something that is not possible with the current tests.
The new test works as follows. Laboratory workers stick a substance that appears on the surface of the coronavirus particle, which the researchers copied, on the bottom of a plastic plate. Then they pour a person’s blood serum over it and let the two react. If antibodies are present, they attach themselves to the substances on the plate, just as they would in our body. Once attached, the scientists can confirm their presence.
This type of test has been around for some time, but there was no specific type for the new coronavirus yet. To see if the test worked well, the researchers compared the samples from healthy people with those from corona patients. And it worked. The scientists clearly saw the difference between the uninfected and infected people.
What does this mean for us now? With this test we can determine who is (or has been) infected and who is not, which gives us a more accurate view of the real infection and mortality rates. In addition, the test can also be used to screen people and see who is immune to the coronavirus. These individuals can then donate blood serum with antibodies, potentially leading to treatment for the patients.
The test can screen our health workers. Those who are immune can work with infected individuals, making the virus less likely to spread among colleagues and other patients. Finally, with this test we can also get a better picture of how our immune system reacts to the virus.
This study also gives an indication that we have no immunity to SARS-CoV-2, which explains why it can spread so quickly. And it also shows that our immune system does respond to the virus, makes antibodies, and thus protects us. These suspicions have yet to be confirmed by larger studies.
The researchers have already begun to distribute the detailed protocol of the test around the world and are already using the test themselves at New York City Hospital. According to them, the procedure is simple enough for other labs to perform it on a large scale and screen thousands of people every day.