Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the first step in slowing the spread of the virus has been containment. Agencies and governments across the world limited or halted all travel, and quarantined or put areas in lockdown where the virus was found to be spreading. This practice of containment doesn’t work across the board, however – more needs to be done.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the medical world in the fight against COVID-19 has been testing, and in particular, availability of test kits in hard-hit areas. In many places where cases are high, the number of patients tested for the virus still have to be limited so that supplies won’t run out, and given the number of people that may test positive while being asymptomatic, the current state of testing has been inevitably flawed in tracking, diagnosing, and treating the illness.
Why we need antigen and antibody tests for COVID-19
Antigen and antibodies are important in testing and positively identifying whether someone has contracted COVID-19. An antigen is a chemical structure that is bound to either an antibody (plasma cell-produced protein designed to fight off pathogens) or an antigen receptor. When antigens or antibodies are found in the body, this can determine positive test results when diagnosing a virus.
This presence of antigens and antibodies is helpful in two very specific ways. The first is positively identifying virus contraction. The second is helping medical scientists find a possible treatment for those already suffering from the virus, or giving those who have not yet fallen ill the chance for immunity. This is done through the use of hyperimmune plasma (serum collected from an infected host that produces the proper antibodies to fight against a specific virus).
Blood plasma treatment for coronavirus patients
Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline workers, the spread of the virus has reached peak levels in places where cases are confirmed in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. Without the gear needed to protect workers, they too expose themselves to the virus, and when medical professionals begin to get ill and possibly die, the ability to treat those with the virus becomes that much more difficult. This is why more testing needs to be done to determine how much of the world actually has contracted COVID-19. An increase in test availability and in the type of tests used to diagnose the illness will be helpful in identifying ways to treat as well as protect others from further infection.
When scientists can access blood plasma from someone who has the virus, they can use it to help treat those already suffering. This is done through extracting blood from already ill patients, localizing the blood plasma, and injecting it into those who are still fighting to help increase the number of virus-fighting antibodies in a patient’s system. These serology tests will help narrow down possible donors that could use the blood plasma to prevent serious complications from the virus, or provide immunity to those working on the frontlines.
Convalescent plasma therapy for SARS-CoV-2
Convalescent plasma is plasma taken from the blood that contains the aforementioned antibodies needed to help treat and prevent further infection from COVID-19. Convalescent plasma therapy is the process that involves injecting already sick patients with the plasma in the hopes that the antibodies present will be enough to help them fight off the virus.
Researchers have just begun exploring this particular means of treatment, but they are hopeful that it can limit severe cases of the virus, thus limiting the overall death toll caused by the spread of COVID-19. Although it is in its early stages, the research has shown promise, and convalescent plasma therapy is available for a select few patients who are eligible. Some who have recovered from the illness can also donate their blood to encourage more supply when treating the virus.
Infectolab’s ELISA Test and IgA antibodies
The new serology test was released on Monday, April 13 to help the United States in its bid to flatten the curve and lower severe cases. The test works by singling out the S1 domain of the protein of the virus in an attempt to find the most immunogenic antigens. These specific antigens can then be used in the treatment and reduction of COVID-19.
There are several types of antibodies that can be found in the blood following infection. Two that are often used in serology testing include the IgA (immunoglobulin A) and the IgM (immunoglobin M). The ELISA test uses a specific type of antibody: the IgA. This antibody is produced in mucosal surfaces and often reads higher in affinities when tested for. Using this particular test will help to find the strongest antibodies that bind better to COVID-19 antigens, as well as reduce the amount of false positive results in patients.
Although the new ELISA test is still in its early stages, it is available on the Infectolab website and can be used to help identify, treat, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a time when it is most crucial.