Most people in the United States have some degree of immune protection against Covid-19, either from vaccination, infection, or a combination of the two. But, just how much protection does any individual person have?
MIT researchers have now developed an easy-to-use test that may be able to answer that question. Their test, which uses the same type of “lateral flow” technology as most rapid antigen tests for Covid-19, measures the level of neutralizing antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a blood sample.
Easy access to this kind of test could help people determine what kind of precautions they should take against Covid infection, such as getting an additional booster shot, the researchers say. They have filed for a patent on the technology and are now hoping to partner with a diagnostic company that could manufacture the devices and seek FDA approval.
“Among the general population, many people probably want to know how well protected they are,” says Hojun Li, the Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. “But I think where this test might make the biggest difference is for anybody who is receiving chemotherapy, anybody who’s on immunosuppressive drugs for rheumatologic disorders or autoimmune diseases, and for anybody who’s elderly or doesn’t mount good immune responses in general. These are all people who might need to be boosted sooner or receive more doses to achieve adequate protection.”
The test is designed so that different viral spike proteins can be swapped in, allowing it to be modified to detect immunity against any existing or future variant of SARS-CoV-2, the researchers say.
Li, who is also an attending physician at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, is the senior author of the study, which appears online today in Cell Reports Methods. Guinevere Connelly, a former Koch Institute research technician who is now a graduate student at Duke University, and Orville Kirkland, a research support associate at the Koch Institute, are the lead authors of the paper.
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