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New Coronavirus Antibody Test Doesn’t Need A Blood Sample: It Gives Result In 3 Minutes

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Even though vaccine technology has made huge and amazing strides, the COVID-19 global pandemic is still going on.

Finding infected people is a significant obstacle to reducing the transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Now, Japanese researchers have come up with a new antibody-based approach that does not require a blood sample for the quick and reliable detection of SARS-CoV-2.

The inability to find people infected with SARS-CoV-2 has made it hard for the world to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the high rate of asymptomatic infections (16–38%) has made things even worse.

As of now, swabbing the nose and throat to obtain samples is the most common detection approach. The long detection time (4-6 hours), high cost, and need for specialist equipment and medical professionals, particularly in countries with limited resources, limit the implementation of this procedure.

Antibody detection against SARS-CoV-2 is an additional and useful tool for confirming COVID-19 infection. In several nations, gold nanoparticle-based testing strips are widely used for point-of-care diagnostics.

They take 10–20 minutes to yield sensitive and trustworthy results, but they need blood samples that are taken by a finger prick using a lancing instrument. This hurts and raises the possibility of infection or cross-contamination, and the components of the used kit may provide a biohazard risk.

In this study, in order to develop a minimally invasive detection assay that would avoid these drawbacks, lead author Leilei Bao from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo, investigated the idea of sampling and testing the interstitial fluid (ISF), which is found in the epidermis and dermis layers of human skin. 

“Although the antibody levels in the ISF are approximately 15%–25% of those in blood, it was still feasible that anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM/IgG antibodies could be detected and that ISF could act as a direct substitute for blood sampling.”

After proving that ISF could be used for antibody detection, the researchers devised a novel method for sampling and testing the ISF.

Beomjoon Kim, the senior author, adds, “first, we developed biodegradable porous microneedles made of polylactic acid that draws up the ISF from human skin”. Then, they created “a paper-based immunoassay biosensor for the detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies”.

The researchers combined these two components to produce a small patch that can detect antibodies on-site in 3 minutes (result from in vitro tests).

This new device could be used to quickly screen for COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases in a way that is safe and good for patients. It could be used in many countries, no matter how rich they are, which is a key goal of managing infectious diseases around the world.

Image Credit: Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

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