Stanford Researchers Develop Test for Antibodies Against SARS-CoV-2

The new test looks for antibodies to the virus in plasma.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A team of Stanford Medicine researchers has developed a test to detect antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples. The new test differs from current diagnostic tests for COVID-19 because it looks for antibodies to the virus in plasma, the liquid in blood.


Two to three days for results

Conventional diagnostic tests detect genetic material from the virus in respiratory secretions. The novel test takes two to three days for results, and 500 samples per day can be tested.

“It’s essential to have the right tools to understand the biology of the novel coronavirus,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine. “This test takes us one step closer to answering the many public health questions about COVID-19.”

“Serological testing gives us a more comprehensive view of what’s happening in an individual who is infected, or has been infected, with the virus,” added Thomas Montine, MD, Ph.D. professor and chair of pathology at the School of Medicine. 

“We thought this was an urgent medical need, and the usual supply chains were unreliable, so we decided to build our own.” 

Providing answers

This new type of testing can answer many questions that the current COVID-19 diagnostic test cannot. For instance, it can help determine to which degree mild infections are prevalent in the general population, and for how long do the antibodies protect an individual against reinfection. It could also help inform when it is safe for individuals to return to normal activity.

“This isn’t a perfect tool, but it’s one tool that I suspect we’ll use to help devise protocols for unwinding shelter-in-place orders,” Montine said.

Last but definitely not least, convalescent plasma from people recovering from the virus contains anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that could help treat COVID-19 patients. 

“That approach could be very important in this period when we don’t have vaccines or other definitive therapies,” Montine said.

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