Experts develop immunity test for COVID-19

A rapid test to determine a person's immunity to COVID-19 has been developed in Australia.
A rapid test to determine a person's immunity to COVID-19 has been developed in Australia.

Australian scientists have made a test to check who is likely to develop coronavirus.

Researchers at Monash University and Alfred Health have developed a rapid test to determine a person's immunity to COVID-19.

The test will indicate who remains infectious and the severity of COVID-19 if a person was to get it.

Cell samples will begin arriving from the three coronavirus hotspots - Italy, China and New York - as well as sufferers from Melbourne, from next week.

The test will also look for differences in the blood of patients with a mild disease compared to those with a severe infection to find biomarkers to predict who needs early medical treatment.

Experts repurposed influenza and allergy testing technology to create the rapid test, which will involve a blood test.

"This and other tests like it will provide us with a more nuanced approach to managing the disease," lead researcher Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, from Monash University's Central Clinical School, said on Monday.

The test, similar to that for influenza, looks at memory B lymphocytes which are immune system cells that make antibodies to fight pathogens such as viruses.

The cells remember the same pathogens for a faster fight in the future, and are formed after vaccination.

If there is evidence of a large population of the cells specific to a pathogen, it is likely a person has been infected in the past.

The test is expected to be ready in the coming months.

Australian Associated Press