Homegrown Antibody Tests


DENVER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— COVID-19 antibody tests – a rush to get them out may have set us back in our efforts to accurately test for the virus. In March, the FDA allowed antibody tests to come into the U.S. without review. But too many false positives proved detrimental in helping to know who had COVID. It also slowed the government’s ability to accurately track the spread of the virus. Now, many universities and labs across the country are working to change that.

Test, after test, after test, is failing to accurately test for COVID-19 antibodies. The problem? The need for fast, accurate, and available tests.

“When it comes to our immune system’s ability to fight things long-term, the antibodies are key,” stated Ashley Frazer-Abel, PhD, assistant professor from University of Colorado School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

(Read Full Interview)

An antibody is a protein in the immune system that fights infection.

“They’re also key for us to know whether you’ve had the infection, which is where I’ve stepped into the process,” added Frazer-Abel.

To create an accurate antibody test, you have to create a protein that antibodies will be attracted to. So, the researchers grew something called a spike protein.

“One of the things that makes it special is that we’re testing for two different proteins on the virus,” explained Brian Harry, MD, PhD, a pathologist from University of Colorado School of Medicine.

(Read Full Interview)

When a patient’s blood is drawn, it’s tested to measure antibodies and antigens. If the test is positive, the color of the sample changes. Results are available within two hours and most importantly, have a 99.6 percent accuracy rate.

“We want to make sure that people who are concerned about maybe having had the virus or are very curious, have access to a test that will give them likely a very accurate result,” elaborated Dr. Harry.

The information they get from this test may also help  determine how long will antibodies last.

“It does seem to be relative to how strong your disease was. If you’re hospitalized, you’re on ICU, you’re probably going to come out with antibodies,” Frazer-Abel shared.

Experts believe the answer will be antibodies against COVID will last months, not years.

The new test is supply chain independent. The proteins used for testing are made in the lab on campus and the blood is tested on campus. So, they don’t have to compete with other countries or states to get supplies. The same approach has been taken at other leading medical centers including Mount Sinai and Stanford.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4788

WHAT ARE ANTIBODIES: Antibodies are specialized, Y-shaped proteins that bind to an antigen or the bodies of foreign invaders including viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. When antibodies find their target, they bind to it, which triggers a cascade of actions that vanquish the invader. Antibody tests detect whether the body has produced detectable quantities of antibodies to a certain molecule and can therefore reveal whether someone has been infected by a specific virus or bacteria in the past. There are four main types of antibodies and each has a different job: IgM antibodies (They are the first to go to the site of infection and offer some protection. They do not hang around long, though. Instead, they trigger the body to make a new type), IgG antibodies (they circulate in the blood and continue to fight off the infection), IgA antibodies (they are found in body fluids, such as sweat, saliva and tears), IgE antibodies (they act quickly and trigger the immune system to go into turbo-charge mode. These are what makes your nose run or your skin itch when you have an allergic reaction). There are two types of antibody tests – lateral flow assays and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests. Both involve fixing an antigen to a surface and then detecting whether an antibody binds to that antigen.

(Sources: https://www.livescience.com/antibodies.html, https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/what-are-antibodies-explainer)

COVID-19 ANTIBODY TESTING: Antibody tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, which may tell if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection. An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take one to three weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. To see if you are currently infected, you need a viral test. Viral tests identify the virus in samples from your respiratory system, such as a swab from the inside of your nose. Antibody tests may detect certain types of antibodies related to the COVID-19 virus including binding antibodies (they detect whether you have developed any antibodies in response to a COVID-19 infection) and neutralizing antibodies (a newer and more sensitive test detects a subgroup of antibodies that may inactivate the virus. This test is done after you test positive for binding antibodies. It is another step toward finding out how effective your antibodies are in blocking the virus to help protect you from another COVID-19 infection).

(Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/covid-19-antibody-testing/about/pac-20489696)

NEW “HOMEGROWN’ ANTIBODY TEST: A team of scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is racing to create a new, high-quality antibody test that could be scaled to provide plenty of tests to people throughout Colorado in the coming months. Many challenges have slowed the development of COVID-19 antibody tests in the U.S. After tightly controlling testing for COVID-19, the FDA relaxed requirements for antibody testing. That has led to some questionable tests, which have yielded inaccurate results. In addition, shortages in raw materials have slowed the development of antibody tests. To bypass these problems, researchers and scientists at Anschutz are growing their own ingredients. That will allow them to guarantee that they will have enough raw materials to create tests, while also assuring that the tests are accurate.

(Source: https://www.uchealth.org/today/colorado-team-creating-high-quality-covid-19-antibody-tests/)




If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Brian Harry, MD, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Medical Director of Special Chemistry and Ashley Frazer-Abel, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Medicine-Rheumatology

Read the entire Q&A