Jessica Sieff | May 20, 2020
Across the country, public health officials have begun administering antibody tests aimed at identifying Americans who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have potentially developed immunity to the disease. But even with testing underway, experts say there are more questions than answers around the results.
The current tests, taken using a small blood sample, detect whether an individual has the antibody, providing a positive or negative result. The tests aren’t quantitative, meaning they don’t provide insight into how much of the antibody an individual may have — and that is an important piece of the puzzle, according to Merlin Bruening, the Donald and Susan Rice Professor of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame.
Bruening and a team of scientists have begun research to develop point-of-care antibody tests that would help public health officials to better understand how an individual’s immunity to COVID-19 lasts over time.
“We want to develop a rapid test, producing results in 15 minutes to an hour, that would determine the level of antibodies in the patient,” Bruening said. “If you’re just looking for whether or not someone has the antibody — a yes or no answer — those tests are out there. But simply knowing whether or not someone has the antibody is only part of the picture. We need to know if those levels are declining. Fading immunity would be a major setback to fighting a virus like this.”
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