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Simple glucose-meter test can be used to monitor COVID-19 antibody levels

Researchers have devised a simple glucose metre test that can be used to track people's antibody levels against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

June 20, 2022 / 06:22 PM IST
Representational image (Source: Reuters)

Representational image (Source: Reuters)

Researchers have developed a simple, glucose-meter test that can help people monitor their own antibody levels against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes COVID-19. The team from Johns Hopkins University in the US noted that over-the-counter COVID-19 tests can quickly show whether a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2.

However, if a person has a positive result, there is no at-home test to assess how long they will remain protected against reinfection. In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers described a simple, accurate glucose-meter-based test incorporating a novel fusion protein.

They said that consumers could someday use this assay to monitor their own SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and infection with the virus itself can guard against future infections for a while, but it's unclear exactly how long that protection lasts, the researchers said.

A good indication of immune protection is a person's level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, but the gold standard measurement — the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) — requires expensive equipment and specialized technicians, they said. Glucose meters are readily available, easy to use and can be integrated with remote clinical services, according to the researchers.

Researchers have been adapting these devices to sense other target molecules, coupling detection with glucose production. For example, if a detection antibody in the test binds to an antibody in a patient's blood, then a reaction occurs that produces glucose — something the device detects very well.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Invertase is an attractive enzyme for this type of analysis because it converts sucrose into glucose, but it's difficult to attach the enzyme to detection antibodies with chemical approaches. The researchers wanted to see whether producing a fusion protein consisting of both invertase and a detection antibody would work in an assay that would allow SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels to be read with a glucose meter.

They designed and produced a novel fusion protein containing both invertase and a mouse antibody that binds to human immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies. The team showed that the fusion protein bound to human IgGs and successfully produced glucose from sucrose.

The researchers then made test strips with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on them. When dipped in COVID-19 patient samples, the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies bound to the spike protein. Adding the invertase/IgG fusion protein, then sucrose, led to the production of glucose, which could be detected by a glucose meter.

The researchers validated the test by performing the analysis with glucose meters on a variety of patient samples, and found that the new assay worked as well as four different ELISAs. The method can also be adapted to test for SARS-CoV-2 variants and other infectious diseases, they added.
first published: Jun 20, 2022 06:22 pm
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