A blood test breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19

A collaboration between BioPRIA, Monash University and clinicians and researchers at Monash Health has led to a discovery that could help provide rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 across the globe, and assist with the distribution and trialling of a vaccine once established.

The world-first research has been able to detect COVID-19 using blood samples in about 20 minutes, identifying whether someone has antibodies to the infection.

As well as being integral to contact tracing and infection surveillance projects, once a vaccine is established, quick-turnaround antibody tests such as this one could be instrumental in prioritising who needs to be vaccinated first, and who already has antibodies to the virus in their blood.

The samples containing COVID-19 antibodies caused a clustering (agglutination) of red blood cells that were easily visible to the naked eye, which meant researchers could retrieve a positive or negative reading in about 20 minutes.

While PCR/swab tests are being used to identify people who are currently infected with COVID-19, this test can determine whether someone has recently been infected with the disease.

Quick-turnaround tests could help limit community spread

Dr Maryza Graham, Medical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician at Monash Health, explains why quick-turnaround antibody tests are so crucial in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They can quickly identify cases and assist with contact tracing and vaccine efficacy research…In a rapidly changing pandemic such as COVID-19, test turnaround time can have an enormous impact on pandemic control, and therefore rapid tests such as this one are especially important.”

Professor Erica Wood, Consultant Haematologist at Monash Health and Head of the Transfusion Research Unit at the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, says one of the important aspects of this research is that the agglutination test used is already widely available.

“The column agglutination test used for blood typing that has been re-purposed here is already widely available in blood centres and hospital blood banks. It is simple to use and inexpensive, and you can process large numbers of tests in a single day.”

Breakthrough built on collaboration

Professor Wood explained that she and fellow Monash Health Haematologist, Associate Professor Zoe McQuilten provided their clinical and technical haematology and transfusion input into the research.

“It’s a really good story of collaboration between the various Monash Health and Monash University investigators and teams,” she said.

Dr Graham agreed and said that this research is an excellent example of how important it is for researchers and clinicians to work together to optimise the development of new tests.

The investigators are now looking for industry partners and further funding to take forward this exciting research.

The following Monash Health clinicians and researchers co-authored this study:

  • Maryza Graham (Clinical Sciences, Monash University, Monash Infectious Diseases, Monash Health)
  • Megan Wieringa (Clinical Sciences, Monash University and Monash Health)
  • Tony Korman (Clinical Sciences, Centre for Inflammatory Diseases, Monash University and Monash Health)
  • Erica Wood (Transfusion Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University and Monash Health)
  • Zoe McQuilten (Transfusion Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University and Monash Health)

Co-authors:

  • Diana Alves (BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University)
  • Rodrigo Curvello (BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University)
  • Edward Henderson (Chemical Engineering, CBNS, BioPRIA and Centre to Impact AMR, Monash University)
  • Vidhishri Kesarwani (Chemical Engineering, CBNS, BioPRIA and Centre to Impact AMR, Monash University)
  • Julia Walker (Chemical Engineering, CBNS, BioPRIA, Centre to Impact AMR and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University)
  • Samuel Leguizamon (Chemical Engineering, BioPRIA, Materials Science and Engineering, Monash University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  • Heather McLiesh (BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University)
  • Vikram Raghuwanshi (BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University)
  • Hajar Samadian (Australian Research Centre, BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University)

More information and to watch the video: https://www.monash.edu/news/articles/breakthrough-blood-test-detects-positive-covid-19-result-in-20-minutes



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