United Kingdom-based Virax Biolabs is a biotech company that is focused on the detection and diagnosis of viral diseases, with a particular interest in the enigmatic, Long COVID.
Long COVID continues to be an ongoing public health issue.
“Long COVID includes a wide range of ongoing respiratory, neurologic, cardiovascular, and other symptoms that can last for weeks, months, or years following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Estimates of long COVID incidence among nonhospitalized adults with COVID-19 range from 7.5% to 41%."1
Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) offers some similarities in that its etiology remains unknown, and it cannot be officially diagnosed or cured. One commonality for everyone dealing with CFS is the overwhelming fatigue that can impact them by significantly reducing people’s quality of life. And without a diagnosis and a specific set of treatment(s), this open-ended condition, could linger for months or even years.
Right now, Long COVID can often present like chronic fatigue syndrome, and there is a wide array of symptoms. Fatigue is certainly one of the lingering symptoms for Long COVID and there is no definitive testing to diagnose this post-viral syndrome. This presents problems for both people afflicted by it, but also clinicians as they are challenged to treat symptoms but not able to pinpoint the diagnosis.
However, one company, Virax Biolabs, is looking to help in diagnosing Long COVID with its proprietary T-cell testing platform, ViraxImmune, with the intention of providing an immunology profiling platform.
“We're actually focusing now on Long COVID, post viral syndromes, chronic fatigue, and T cell exhaustion. We’ve provided some T cell diagnostic indications along these lines that allow us —at an early stage—identify patients who are suffering from any of these diseases,” said Virax Biolabs Chief Scientific Officer Tomasz George, PhD. “We can provide this test that's quite easy to use. It's an established technique that's present in most laboratories. And it will allow us to detect associated chronic inflammation and T cell exhaustion associated with these post viral syndromes.”
George explains they are looking for cytokines and markers of inflammation to detect Long COVID.
“We take a blood sample from them, we treat that blood sample with a sequence of peptides, that's associated with the COVID virus. And what this does is it can activate memory T cells in the blood that then go on to release cytokines that are specific to the infection with long COVID, we can then detect these cytokines and signs of inflammation.”
ViraxImmune is a T cell testing platform to determine whether an individual will be able to mount a robust response to an infection. T cell tests are more informative than antibody and antigen testing as T cells provide long-term immunity to pathogenic threats. With a better understanding of immune status and consultation of a provider, patients will be equipped with information to make personalized proactive and protective decisions rather than a one-size-fits-all against viral threats, according to the company.
Contagion spoke to George recently and he explained further how they apply their testing platform to identify Long COVID, and the company’s long-term plan to use its technology in identifying post-viral syndromes.
1.Long COVID and Significant Activity Limitation Among Adults, by Age — United States, June 1–13, 2022, to June 7–19, 2023. MMWR. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 11, 2023 / 72(32);866–870. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/wr/mm7232a3.htm#