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First-Ever Highly Sensitive Antibody Tests Could Detect Infection with All Known Human Coronaviruses, Including New SARS-CoV-2 Variants

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Feb 2021
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Scientists have set the stage for the development of highly sensitive antibody tests for infection with all known human coronaviruses, including new variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (New York, NY, USA) have developed the HCoV-Peptide consisting of three million immune markers on a glass chip and covering proteins of all known human coronaviruses, including the SARS-CoV-2. In collaboration with a team at the SunYat-Sen University (Guangzhou, China), the CII researchers have identified 29 immune signatures specific to SARS-CoV-2. These genetic fingerprints (peptides) provide the blueprint for tests that will be used for diagnostics and surveillance. Current antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2 infection may generate false-positive results because of cross-reactivity with seasonal coronaviruses responsible for the common cold, as well as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1.

To develop the HCoV-Peptide array, the researchers first analyzed blood samples taken from individuals with asymptomatic, mild, or severe SARS-CoV-2 infections, and controls including healthy individuals and those exposed to SARS-CoV-1 and seasonal coronaviruses. An analysis of all approximately 170,000 peptides related to known human coronaviruses yielded 29 peptides with the strongest and most specific reactivity with SARS-CoV-2. Next, they validated their test using a second set of blood samples, including those from confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2, those with antibodies to other human coronaviruses, and healthy individuals. The new test has a 98% specificity and sensitivity. Immune signatures were present from eight days after onset of COVID-19 symptoms to as long as six to seven months after infection.

“This work will allow us and others to build inexpensive, easy-to-use blood tests that can provide data for exposure as well as immunity,” said author Nischay Mishra, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School.

Related Links:
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
SunYat-Sen University


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