infectious disease experts hope that testing thousands of blood samples could help stop the coronavirus pandemic. the blood test can tell whether it carries antibodies to COVID-19, which are produced when a person’s immune system responds after an infection. by identifying those who may now be immune to the disease, governing officials can decide what decisions should be made about containment and potentially relieve the spread of the virus and its impact.


as reported by wired’s gregory barber reports, next week, blood banks in the netherlands are set to begin a nationwide experiment testing their almost 7,000 donations with a test for antibodies to SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. the aim is to hopefully be able to graph how fast immunity is increasing in the population. when 60 percent of the country’s population has antibodies to the disease, and lasting immunity is proven, the pandemic could shut down on its own.


according to italian press agency ANSA, the policlinico ‘san martino’ hospital in genoa has received a new test from china which is able to identify COVID-19 and has CE certification from the chinese manufacturer. the procedure, which is relatively fast and simple, requires a capillary blood sample is taken, by pricking a finger and placing a drop of blood the device’s tube. a specific buffer is added with a reaction expected within 10-15 seconds.


the test, which can be read directly on the kit, detects the presence of antibodies specific to COVID-19, produced by the body in the presence of coronavirus infection. the italian hospital has only received 720 samples of the new test.


meanwhile, in the UK, millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for amazon delivery to people self-isolating, the guardian reports. it is hoped that it could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality. other benefits include developing therapeutics from antibody-rich blood, as well as having the potential to offer fast-response tests that can easily be done on site to check front-line health workers.


as barber’s article points out however, before that can be executed with success, the test needs to be sensitive enough for diagnoses. according to hans zaaijer, a microbiologist at amsterdam university medical center and sanquin, the dutch blood bank, the current test is good enough for an anonymized population study but it isn’t accurate enough to be used to send dutch health workers back into hospitals with presumed immunity.


in america, san francisco startup scanwell health is among the companies with plans to do at-home testing. the test is being made by chinese biotech company innovita, and is the only covid-19 serological test to be approved by china’s equivalent of the FDA. the company is currently awaiting for approval of emergency use authorization from the FDA to distribute them in-home. in the meantime, scanwell is hoping to get the tests out to hospitals, where they could be used to clear front-line workers.