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Singapore develops rapid COVID-19 immunity test kit
By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter
SCIENTISTS from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore) developed a test kit that can determine one’s immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in 10 minutes.
The rapid test kit measures levels of neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 and its variants from just a drop of blood.
“Our study proves that our new test kit can be a powerful tool, allowing healthcare organizations to screen people and determine their vaccination needs,” said Peter Preiser, co-lead principal investigator at SMART Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) group and associate vice-president for biomedical sciences at NTU Singapore, in a statement.
“This will help allay some people’s fears that they will be ‘over-vaccinated with a booster,’ since the results will inform them accurately if they are well-protected against COVID-19 or not,” he said.
The kit can also be easily adapted for new variants of concern in the future since it is “low-cost, fast, and has up to 93% accuracy,” according to the team. The test findings are described in the related paper published in the Microbiology Spectrum journal.
The low costs and quick results are possible because the kit uses a paper-based assay coated with chemicals that bind to antibodies.
The team predicts it will pave the way for personalized vaccination, where people are only given vaccinations and booster shots when necessary, based on antibody levels.
“Depending on the country or jurisdiction, different evaluations for the test need to be conducted,” said Dr. Megan McBee, scientific director of the SMART AMR research group, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.
The SMART spin-off company Thrixen is looking into necessary evaluations, manufacturing, and distribution options.
In Singapore, the test evaluation process can take several months to a year. And once data and production details are submitted to regulators, it could take another year to bring the test to market without emergency use authorization.
The rapid COVID-19 immunity test kit is ideal for governments and healthcare organizations struggling to manage limited vaccine resources, said Dr. McBee.
She added that the test can be developed and adapted for use to tackle other diseases beyond COVID-19.
“Think instant diagnostics, where a doctor is able to test a patient’s response to a viral disease which would allow them to recommend the right course of treatment there and then. This would be hugely beneficial to everyday healthcare, and we are just at the cusp of exploring the possibilities and applications,” she said.