Stanford Medicine has been successful in developing a test to detect antibodies against the coronavirus in blood samples. This test looks for antibodies to the virus in the blood of patients unlike previous tests that focused on finding genetic material from the virus on secretions from the respiratory systems. The Stanford test hopes to give information about how the body’s immune system reacts to the virus.
The research is being headed by Scott Boyd, associate professor of pathology and an expert in antibody research. The current tests take two-three days to give results. “This test takes us one step closer to answering the many questions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. It is essential to have the right tools to understand the biology of the new virus,” said Lloyd Minor, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, where the research was conducted.
The test detects two different types of antibodies, the IgM antibodies and the IgG antibodies. The IgM antibodies are known to be formed as an early immune response to the virus, whereas, the latter is formed if the infection persists for longer. “We have some data that shows the body responds to the virus in this particular way. However, we do not know how long the antibodies will last,” said Thomas Montine, Chair of pathology at the Stanford School of Medicine.
The team wants to be able to ensure that they are able to manufacture enough reagents needed to validate the tests. They are now trying to determine who should be able to receive the test, with medical workers being taken on priority.
Such tests can answer important questions that we have not been able to answer about the COVID-19 pandemic till now. The infection is known to cause mild symptoms or even completely asymptomatic in many patients. Antibody tests can help to determine how common mild infections are from the number for people infected.