New blood test may indicate how immune you are to Covid

New blood test may indicate how immune you are to Covid

A newly developed blood test that measures a specific immune response in the body could help doctors assess how much protection a person has against Covid-19, according to a new study.

The test, which focuses on the part of the immune system that provides long-term protection by prompting the body to “remember” the virus, could help understand the complex tangle of Covid immunity that now exists from person to person.

The test can, for example, measure immunity regardless of whether someone has developed a level of protection against one or more natural infections or from vaccines and booster shots. Others, who may have much lower levels of protection because they are immunocompromised, could also use the test to assess their vulnerability and see how they responded to vaccines, said Ernesto Guccione, associate professor of oncology and pharmacology sciences at Tisch Cancer. Institute at Mount Sinai.

“Ideally, this will give you a complete picture of where you are and a comprehensive picture of your immune protection,” said Guccione, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers said they are focused on clinical trials to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

The test involves taking a small blood sample at a clinic and mixing it with protein fragments from the virus. The researchers then look to see if so-called T cells are activated in the sample.

T cells are the cornerstone of the immune system’s long-term memory and normally wait until they detect the presence of foreign invaders. Unlike antibody levels, which can decline after vaccinations or infections, T cells can resemble a virus years and sometimes decades later.

Whether through vaccinations or infections, T cells are primed to “recover” fragments of a virus, including variants that can evade protective antibodies. This means that T cells will not prevent an infection from happening, but they can prevent a patient from becoming seriously ill from Covid.

Previous studies have found that T cells can recognize all known variants of concern, including omicron, but Guccione said it’s an active area of ​​research. Scientists continue to refine the test and are studying how well T cells are responding to different variants.

“The data released so far is very encouraging,” he said. “The good news is that we have developed immunity against several proteins in the virus, and many of them do not tend to be mutated by the variants.”

Tests to detect T cells have mostly been limited to laboratories for research purposes, and the process is often expensive and difficult to do on a large scale, Guccione said. The new kit, however, is designed to be widely used and results can usually be delivered in less than 24 hours, she added.

More research is needed, but he said the accuracy of the results is comparable to similar tests performed in research labs.

Currently, the test can detect T-cell activation, but the researchers hope that subsequent versions can provide more granular detail, said Jordi Ochando, an assistant professor of oncology sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and one of the study’s co-authors.

“To look at the degree of intensity of T-cell immunity and correlate that with protection — we’re not at that level yet,” he said. “But we hope to be at some point.”

Future iterations may, for example, provide details on the magnitude and duration of a person’s immunity to Covid.

Each test costs about $50 to run, but Ochando said it’s possible for companies that license the product to include a markup in the price.

The test was developed by researchers at Mount Sinai and Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. It is commercially available in Europe as part of a licensing agreement with Hyris, a UK-based biotechnology company.

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