Aussie researchers develop sensitive COVID-19 antibody test
Australian researchers have developed a sophisticated antibody test for COVID-19 with increased sensitivity.
Scientists from the University of Queensland and the Queensland health department designed a blood test using synthetic viral proteins to screen people who had prior exposure to COVID-19, the university announced on Tuesday.
Professor Linda Lua, director of the university's Protein Expression Facility (PEF), said the high-quality proteins were extremely valuable in determining the reliability of the antibody test and were less risky compared to real viral proteins.
"PEF was able to respond rapidly as the pandemic emerged because the facility has a track record in producing proteins and is equipped with a range of production capabilities," she said.
"Using these proteins has other significant benefits like reducing biohazard risks from not working with the live virus and having a scalable and consistent production line - especially critical during pandemics."
The synthetic proteins were then coated onto tiny beads called microspheres to test for specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in patients' blood, which will bind to the viral proteins in a similar way as they bind to virus particles.
Senior serologist Carmel Taylor from Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services said this antibody test requires less patient samples and has several other advantages.
"We are one of only a few laboratories nationally who have a unique serology technology for antibody testing which gives us increased testing sensitivity and reduced turn-around times," Taylor said.
"As an added advantage, the beads used have individual dye markers so we can quickly test a single patient sample against several parts of the virus or a number of different viruses at the same time."