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Anti-body test to detect novel coronavirus infection

Date: 27 February 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Using an antibody test developed by the Duke-NUS Medical School that relies on blood samples, the Singapore Ministry of Health has been successful in identifying two people who were infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and have since recovered. 



 The antibody test can be used for detecting people infected with novel coronavirus but are asymptomatic or exhibit only mild symptoms. 



  • Unlike the currently used molecular test that detects the presence of viral genetic material in oral swab samples, the diagnostic test developed by Duke-NUS Medical School detects antibodies developed by the immune system when infected with the novel coronavirus.

  • Antibodies will start appearing in the body starting a few days after infection and will peak in about two-three weeks after infection. The test may not be able to detect antibodies if the person is tested too soon after infection.

  • While the currently used molecular test has low sensitivity and cannot identify people who have recovered from COVID-19 illness as they will no longer harbour the virus, antibodies produced by the immune system in response to infection will be present in the blood for a long time.

  • This makes the antibody test particularly important to trace even people who have recovered from illness.

  • If there are antibodies against the coronavirus, the antibodies will prevent the coronavirus from replicating. This is a definitive readout of the patient being previously infected by the virus because you will not have antibodies against the virus if you have never been infected by it before.

  • The researchers had used the virus and genetic material derived from the virus to develop several specific laboratory tests to detect the virus-specific antibodies for contact tracing and other applications.

  • Two different antibody testing platforms (virus neutralisation assay and ELISA assay) were used to confirm past infection.

  • This became possible as these people, despite having recovered from COVID-19 illness, still had very high levels of the virus-specific antibodies in their blood.

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