To fight against Covid-19, Japanese scientists have developed a rapid, reliable and low-cost antibody test, which uses portable lab-on-a-chip technology to accurately measure the concentration of antibodies present in diluted blood plasma.

Previous studies have found that Covid-19 antibodies, or proteins produced by the immune system to neutralise the virus, are present in the later stages of infection and can linger in the blood after the infection has cleared, allowing previously infected individuals to be identified, the study published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics said.

Antibody tests are, thus, an important means of determining the full spread of the coronavirus – information that is crucial to guide public health policies, it said.

“Many existing platforms for antibody tests are accurate and reliable, but they are costly and need to be carried out in a lab by trained operators. This means that it can take hours, or even days, to obtain results,” said study author Riccardo Funari from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST).

The researchers avoided this trade-off between accuracy and accessibility by developing an alternative antibody testing platform that combines powerful light-sensing technology with a microfluidic chip.

The chip provides results within 30 minutes and is highly sensitive, detecting even the lowest clinically-relevant antibody concentration.

Each chip is cheap to manufacture and negates the need for a lab or trained operators, increasing the feasibility of nation-wide testing.

And there’s another distinctive advantage of this newly-developed platform.

“The test doesn’t just detect whether the antibodies are present or absent – it also provides information about the number of antibodies produced by the immune system. In other words, it’s quantitative,” said study author Amy Shen.

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