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MIT researchers create test to predict COVID immunity, Harvard scientists develop test for both virus and antibodies

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 8/9/2022 Rick Sobey
MIT researchers have developed a test that may be able to predict a person's immune response to SARS-CoV-2. (Credit: Courtesy of the MIT researchers. Edited by MIT News) © Provided by Boston Herald MIT researchers have developed a test that may be able to predict a person's immune response to SARS-CoV-2. (Credit: Courtesy of the MIT researchers. Edited by MIT News)

If you’re wondering how much protection you have from COVID, researchers at two local powerhouse universities say they’ve created new tests that will help determine antibody levels.

MIT scientists on Tuesday announced they’ve developed a blood test that may predict COVID immunity. The announcement came a day after Harvard researchers said they’ve built a saliva test that detects the presence of both antibodies and the virus.

The MIT researchers created a paper test that measures the level of neutralizing antibodies in a blood sample, which could help people decide what protections they should take against infection. Their test uses the same type of “lateral flow” technology as most rapid antigen tests for COVID.

“Among the general population, many people probably want to know how well protected they are,” said Hojun Li, the Charles W. and Jennifer C. Johnson clinical investigator at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

“But I think where this test might make the biggest difference is for anybody who is receiving chemotherapy, anybody who’s on immunosuppressive drugs for rheumatologic disorders or autoimmune diseases, and for anybody who’s elderly or doesn’t mount good immune responses in general,” Li added. “These are all people who might need to be boosted sooner or receive more doses to achieve adequate protection.”

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The test is designed so that different viral spike proteins can be swapped in, allowing it to be modified to detect immunity against any existing or future variant of SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said.

They have filed for a patent on the technology, and are now hoping to partner with a diagnostic company that could manufacture the devices and seek FDA approval.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a new point-of-care diagnostic device that can simultaneously detect the presence of both the virus and antibodies in a patient’s saliva.

People would be able to learn their immunity and infection status in a couple of hours, without needing to send samples to a lab.

“This diagnostic can enable cheaper, multiplexed monitoring of infection and immunity in populations over time, at levels of accuracy that are comparable to expensive lab tests,” said co-first author Devora Najjar, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab and the Wyss Institute. “Such an approach could dramatically improve the global response to future pandemics, and also provide insight into which treatment individuals should receive.”

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