UNIVERSITY of Aberdeen Scientists have developed a ground-breaking antibody test for Covid-19.
The team at the university, along with biotechnology group Vertebrate Antibodies Ltd and NHS Grampian have created antibody tests that detect whether people have been exposed to new variants of Covid-19.
The new test will be used to estimate the prevalence of existing variant strains, including the Kent and India variants.
It can also assess the long-term immunity of a person and if their immunity is vaccine-induced or is a result of previous exposure to the virus.
The innovative test can also detect antibody responses to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus with over 98 per cent accuracy.
Tests that are currently available have proven to be approximately 60-93 per cent accurate and cannot define unique variants.
Additionally, the new creation can provide information that estimates the duration of the immunity provided by the vaccine as well as its effectiveness on new variants.
Professor Mirela Delibegovic from the University of Aberdeen and academic lead on the project said: “Accurate antibody tests will become increasingly important in the management of the pandemic, and this is a truly game-changing technology with the potential to dramatically change the trajectory of the global recovery from the pandemic.
“As we move through the pandemic, we are seeing the virus mutate into more transmissible variants such as the Delta variant whereby they impact negatively on vaccine performance and overall immunity. Currently, available tests cannot detect these variants. As the virus mutates, existing antibody tests will become even less accurate hence the urgent need for a novel approach to incorporate mutant strains into the test – this is exactly what we have achieved.
“Looking ahead, discussions are already underway to explore a possible roll-out of the tests to the NHS which we hope to see happen soon.”
Research for the new test was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office Rapid Response in the Covid-19 research programme.
Researchers used artificial intelligence called EpitopePredikt to identify certain aspects or hot-spots of the virus that trigger immune defences of the body.
The research can also be used for the development of specific diagnostic tests for infectious and auto-immune diseases like type 1 diabetes.
Dr Tiehui Wang, Director of Biologics at Vertebrate Antibodies Ltd, said: “We are extremely proud that our technologies have made such a contribution in a very challenging year.
“The EpitoGen tests are the first of their kind and will play a significant role in combating the pandemic and pave the way for future diagnostics”.
Dr Brittain-Long, Consultant in Infectious Diseases in NHS Grampian and a member of the research team, said: “This new testing platform adds crucial sensitivity and specificity to the currently available serology tests and has the potential to monitor individual and population-based immunity in a way that has not been possible before.
“In my work, I have experienced first-hand the detrimental effects this virus can have on people, and I am very excited to add another tool in the toolbox to fight this pandemic.”