Technology Aids in COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity Monitoring

January 6, 2021
Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

Prior to public vaccination, a rapid and accurate COVID-19 antibody test will help determine the presence of neutralizing antibodies.

An investigator from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has recently developed a new technology that has the potential to be used as an in-home antibody test.

The test will aid in immunity monitoring as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines become widely available to the general population. This type of tracking will be important moving forward due to the fact it will help in determining whether the vaccine is effective and for how long in individuals.

Benjamin Larimer, the creator of the diagnostic test and an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Radiology Division of Advanced Medical Imaging Research, broke down the SARS-CoV-2 virus into smaller pieces in order to identify the particular locations of where antibodies attached to it. The findings showed that the test was able to detect positive cases by an increase of 20% in comparison to current standard forms of clinical antibody tests.

This new form is an improvement over contemporary versions because it can help identify specific neutralizing antibodies, which can only be measured at high levels of accuracy now with time-consuming and complicated laboratory tests that the general public does not have access to. Current testing also commonly mistakes antibodies for other viruses leading to higher false-positive results because of the broad approach that they use to locate them.

"The goal of every vaccine is to get the body to produce antibodies, which serve as a first line of defense against the virus," Larimer said. "Tests that specifically detect these antibodies can be used to measure whether a vaccine works, and possibly predict how long its protection will last."

Clinical trials analyzing COVID-19 vaccines have found that they are very successful, however, millions of people will still be unprotected, and immunity monitoring could help to determine the efficacy and if someone is actually protected or not. Larimer plans to continue developing the technology until it is inexpensive and easy for in-home use and has filed a provisional patent application for the test.