Mass antibody testing equipment developed by Swiss researchers
Researchers in Switzerland have developed a COVID-19 antibody test that can analyse hundreds of samples at the same time, using minute quantities of reagents and single drops of blood. The platform, which can analyse up to 1024 samples at once, consists of a complex network of tiny tubes carved into a plastic chip that is about the size of a USB stick.
Antibody tests are also a powerful tool to evaluate COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in clinical trials, when scientists look at the rise in antibodies after volunteers get a jab. They are also utilised in mass seroprevalence studies among population groups. This microfluidics-based antibody test could be successfully run on blood samples collected with all three methods, even when the blood was left to dry and stored for about one week at room temperature, or when samples were shipped by regular post. The assay has an extremely high specificity – it has never picked up COVID-19 antibodies in samples of blood from people never infected by the virus.
Due to the device’s small size, the amounts of blood and reagents used are a fraction of those required for standard COVID-19 antibody tests. This allows for cost and time reductions, as well as less human labour required along the supply chain. “We’re interested in expanding this platform to other types of assays that would detect other biomarkers that people might want to measure — for example, blood ferritin levels in people with anemia,” said one of the scientist team involved in the project.