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Anyone who wants to find out whether the last nasty cold was perhaps a severe infection with the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus or just a mere cough ought to have their blood tested by a physician. This blood sample is then analyzed in a laboratory and the results are known within one or two days. What’s more, it is also necessary to dig deep into your wallet, since tests like these are not so cheap in Germany. They can quickly add up to €30 and €50 a pop.

Researchers at the German University of Leipzig have now developed a corona antibody test kit as part of a broad-based research project which anyone can carry out at home.

Researchers at the University of Leipzig have now developed a corona antibody test as part of a broad-based research project, which anyone can administer at home. The aim is to give more people certainty as to whether or not they have already had an infection. Unlike other fast antibody tests that are considered unreliable, this test kit allows blood samples to be taken form a non-invasive blood samples from a fingertip. This is then followed by a laboratory test.

The test, called ‘AProof,’ is intended to form the basis for further research into the actual spread of coronavirus amongst the population. It can also be used at schools, daycare centers, hospitals, and nursing homes to provide even better protection for high-risk groups, the scientists say. “This is being done by specifically employing personnel who have been tested and found to have antibodies, thereby minimizing the risk of infection.”

Important basis for further research

Science will also gain valuable data this way that will help to better estimate in which regions and how many people have been infected in the intervening period. In order to be able to determine the extent of the coronavirus infection amongst the population, (including people who have had no symptoms and have therefore remained undetected), it is important to detect the presence of antibodies in the blood. Antibodies produced by the body are detectable for longer than the virus itself.

“This provides an important basis for further research,” says Prof. Dr. Ralf Hoffmann from the Institute of Bioanalytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry and Mineralogy at Leipzig University. He designed the test together with his colleague Prof. Dr. Jörg Gabert from the company Adversis Pharma at BioCity Leipzig. “For a reliable test method, the first step was to identify a specific protein. We were able to identify that within a very short time and make available for use in the test.”

Results available online

The results are impressive, as the antibody test is very easy to use and provides very reliable diagnostic results, said Prof. Gabert at the official presentation of the test. The test can be obtained from pharmacies as well as online.

“All it takes are a few drops of blood that are applied to a test strip. Once the blood is dry, the test strip can be sent to a laboratory. Each test kit comes with an individual access code with which you can register. Then you can view the results online,” says Gabert. “The anonymized data obtained in the laboratories are then made available for further research.” Results can be accessed online within 24 to 48 hours.

Hoffmann explained to the German medical jorunal Ärzteblatt that the test should be performed at the earliest within 14 days after a positive PCR result. At the moment, however, it is still unclear as to how long antibodies can be reliably detected. “I expect a period of about six months. It will probably still be possible to detect antibodies after nine to twelve months in many patients. Yet the fundamentals are still missing in this new infectious disease.”

The overall research project is scheduled to run until 2022 and will be completed with a budget of €323 million from funds allocated by the German Free State of Saxony and the European Union.

The antibody test is a joint project of the Biotechnological-Biomedical Center (BBZ), part of the University of Leipzig and the Adversis Pharma company at BioCity Leipzig.