Coronavirus Outbreak: What Is The 'game-changing' Antibody Testing For COVID-19?

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The antibody tests can detect active infections, but most importantly, they can reveal if the person has been infected with the coronavirus in the past.

Written By Aanchal Nigam | Mumbai | Updated On:

With the World Health Organisation laying stress on testing of individuals as the only way to combat the deadly coronavirus outbreak, countries around the world are taking extra measures to make that possible. The detection of COVID-19 can be done by RNA-based diagnostic tests which have been reportedly given to tens and thousands of people. However, these tests look for the presence of viral genes in nose or throat swab and detect any active sign of infection. But, scientists also need to test a person’s blood for antibodies to the novel virus. It is such tests which can detect active infections, but most importantly, they can reveal if the person has been infected in the past because our bodies retain the antibodies against the pathogens it has overcome in the past.

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The antibody tests are also known as serological testing which is expected to be more helpful to stem the easily spread fatal virus. Instead of looking for current infections, these tests, which a British company Attomaker Ltd has claimed would take only five minutes, can also screen the previous exposure to COVID-19. The detection would further give the scientists a look into the people who have recovered from the disease and have now potentially developed immunity of their body. 

According to international reports, the head of the vaccines business unit for Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Rajeev Venkayya has said that the antibody test is “even more important” because it helps the medical officials understand the epidemiology of the coronavirus which has now spread to over 180 countries since being originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan in late December 2019. 

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‘Testing is essential’

The WHO’s special envoy for coronavirus has reportedly said that “testing is essential” but the struggle has left epidemiologists unable to perform tests and assess the exact scope of the drastically spreading pandemic. The antibody tests, which the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a “game-changer” are still in the study phase. However, the review published by the researchers has deemed that they are making progress. 

Apart from the antibody tests, the other test which can detect the present infection in people is currently struggling with short supply. Qiagen NV, the company which makes its own testing kits as well as components others need to make theirs is reportedly having to ration clients while it works to ramp up production as much as 80 per cent in two months. Meanwhile, Roche Holding AC’s new high-speed tool that can carry out more than 4,000 results in a single day is expected to help most in need. 

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