The Mayo Clinic this week announced it has developed a new coronavirus antibody test that could help researchers better understand the degree of immunity those who recover from a COVID-19 infection may have.
The clinic’s new SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody test “measures the level of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” officials with the Mayo Clinic said in a Thursday news release, noting that neutralizing antibodies “are a subset of antibodies able to independently inactivate viruses, and are associated with protective immunity against reinfection for many infectious pathogens.”
In other words, neutralizing antibodies are the proteins produced following a COVID-19 infection that will fight off the coronavirus should a person be exposed to it once more. Other antibody tests that are currently available simply show if a person has produced any antibodies following a COVID-19 infection but do not look for these specific proteins.
“It is important to note that the neutralizing antibody test is not a replacement for the existing serology testing for COVID-19, which detects antibodies that recognize the virus and serves as an indicator of current or prior infection,” explained John Mills, the co-director of the Mayo Clinic Neuroimmunology Laboratory, in a statement.
Rather, he said, the clinic’s new neutralizing antibody test “adds that next level of detail for researchers and clinicians by providing an accurate estimate of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing activity.”
The test will help determine how effective a person’s antibodies are at neutralizing the virus, which will help researchers “identify optimal convalescent plasma donors and ultimately help assess the efficacy of anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccines,” said Dr. William Morice, II, the president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, in a statement.
That said, researchers studying the novel disease are still working to determine the level of neutralizing antibodies that are necessary to know if someone is no longer at risk. It’s also currently unknown for what period of time someone who has recovered from a COVID-19 infection may have immunity against the novel coronavirus.
The new SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody test will be available later this month “through Mayo Clinic Laboratories to select labs, blood banks, and biopharma clients,” the medical center said.