Antibody tests to detect exposure to new variants, a "game changer"

Antibody tests

Antibody tests detecting whether people have been exposed to new variants of the Coronavirus have been developed by the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with biotechnology group Vertebrate Antibodies and NHS Grampian.

The new antibody tests can detect antibody responses to infection by SARS-CoV-2 virus with more than 98 percent accuracy and 100 percent specificity.

This is in contrast to currently available tests that are around 60-93 percent accurate and cannot differentiate unique variants. 

Professor Mirela Delibegovic from the University of Aberdeen and academic lead on the project explains: “Accurate antibody tests will become increasingly important in the management of the pandemic and this is a truly game-changing technology with the potential to dramatically change the trajectory of global recovery from the pandemic.”

He continues saying, “As we move through the pandemic we are seeing the virus mutate into more transmissible variants such as the Delta variant whereby they impact negatively on vaccine performance and overall immunity.

Currently available tests cannot detect these variants.  As the virus mutates, existing antibody tests will become even less accurate hence the urgent need for a novel approach to incorporate mutant strains into the test – this is exactly what we have achieved.

Circulating variant strains

As such, the new tests can be used to estimate the prevalence of circulating variant strains in the community, including the variants first identified in Kent and in India, now known as the Alpha and Delta variants.

The tests can also assess the long-term immunity of an individual and whether immunity is vaccine-induced or is a result of previous exposure to the infection – information that is invaluable in helping to prevent the spread of infection. 

The tests can also provide information that can be used to estimate the duration of the immunity provided by the vaccine as well as the effectiveness of the vaccine on emerging variants.