A team of Johns Hopkins University researchers has developed a rapid blood test that could confirm a person has been vaccinated while they wait to board a plane or enter a sporting event, announced Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Their COVID-19 antibody test is similar to one used at home to determine blood type, where the user pricks a finger and places a drop of blood on a card. A fusion protein developed by the research team is housed on the card and detects COVID-19 antibodies, tiny proteins in the blood the immune system produces to “remember” viral encounters and provide immunity to future infections. Results come back in less than five minutes, faster than current lateral flow tests to detect antibodies at point of care, while also potentially providing a clearer result.
Robert Kruse, MD, PhD, who created the blood test, says it could be used to confirm a person’s vaccination status instead of having to show a vaccine card. Kruse is lead author of a paper posted online that reported results of the test on 400 blood samples, half of which were from prior COVID-19 patients. The test correctly identified antibodies in previously infected patients 87.5% of the time, a slightly higher rate than ELISA tests performed in hospitals that require hours to perform. The paper is being peer-reviewed.
The test uses hemagglutination in which the degree of clumping together of red blood cells reveals the concentration of antibodies. Kruse, a pathology resident at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the hemagglutination results could let people know if they still have protection months after they received the vaccine or if they need a booster shot. The degree of hemagglutination also correlated with levels of neutralizing antibodies in patients, which protect against viral infection.
Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures is seeking patent protection for the technology, which is available for licensing. The test’s creators are seeking an industry collaborator to manufacture the cards and have applied for funding through TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative to assist in commercializing its research.