As COVID-19 case counts fluctuate and breakthrough infections persist, quantitative antibody data and accessible testing methods are needed to guide vaccine decisions and public policy.
After “Do I have COVID-19?” the next most pressing question related to the pandemic might be “Do I have immunity to COVID-19?” Ultimately, people want to know if they are at risk of getting sick, despite prior infection or immunization. A blood test that looks for antibody proteins uniquely tailored to fight SARS-CoV-2 is one way to answer this key question.
The CDC has counted nearly 82 million cases¹ of COVID-19 in the United States, but confirmed diagnoses can only tell us so much. With studies estimating that asymptomatic infections account for 40% of all cases ², many people have had COVID-19 and not even known it. Others have been sick but were unable to access a test to confirm that SARS-CoV-2 was the culprit. Adding to the challenge of accurately gauging disease spread, positive cases identified through at-home antigen tests are not always reported.
Antibody testing remains a largely untapped yet valuable tool for better understanding the pandemic’s past, making informed decisions in the present, and preparing for the future. Since our bodies house a variety of antibodies targeting many diseases, the ability to measure the specific proteins capable of defending against SARS-CoV-2 — termed “neutralizing antibodies” — is essential.
As the need to assess population-level immunity expands worldwide, accurate testing solutions will help individuals and public health bodies fully leverage the power of antibody data. And with patients more regularly seeking convenience in medical care, home-based options can drive this understanding by providing greater access and increased adoption of antibody tests.
COVID-19 antibody testing can help individuals assess their own risk while guiding mitigation strategies
In addition to shedding light on the extent of SARS-CoV-2’s past spread, real-time antibody data captured over time can show how long antibodies stay active in the body. At an individual level, antibody testing allows people to better understand their own immunity and guide day-to-day decisions around exposure risk, especially for those who are high risk and immunocompromised.
From a public health perspective, collective antibody levels can help determine a population’s overall risk of disease and how best to lower it. This information can be used to maximize the benefits of immunization by fine-tuning the timing of boosters based on antibody decline and waning immunity post-vaccine or infection. Antibody data can also help inform policy decisions around social distancing and mask-wearing.
Reliable, standardized test methods are needed to leverage the power of COVID-19 antibody data
To determine COVID-19 immunity, tests need to identify and measure the specific antibodies that are effective in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 viral activity. Determining what antibodies should be measured and what specific findings mean in terms of actual immunity are critical first steps. At a global level, a standardized approach for antibody measurement and risk assessment will help effectively manage vaccination efforts and promote better understanding of breakthrough infection risk.
Along these lines, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed an international standard for SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin ³ to help labs generate data that aligns across populations. This standard guides test manufacturers in determining which immunoglobins assays should measure — with a focus on neutralizing antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — as well as informing test sensitivity requirements and thresholds associated with immunity. To generate the most reliable and useful data possible, antibody tests should be calibrated to this standard.
Home-based devices can help patients and public health entities access COVID-19 antibody data safely and efficiently
The pandemic has driven more widespread embrace of telehealth models and the delivery of medical services at home. Even lab-based testing no longer requires an in-person visit for a blood draw, as new technology can be used to collect samples from the convenience of home. At-home sample collection removes several traditional barriers to test access, including the need to find time to go to a health center and coordinate transportation and sometimes miss work, all while navigating the risk of disease transmission. Those recovering from illness may be even less inclined to leave their homes when doing so could put communities and healthcare workers at risk.
Bringing the sample collection step into the home can also address existing challenges for labs looking to scale existing testing methods.
VELVETᵀᴹ, specifically designed for non-expert home sample collection, could increase the availability and capacity of antibody testing monitored by a healthcare provider
Weavr’s Velvet device is easy to use and requires placing only a few drops of blood from a finger-prick into the well of the device. The user then simply closes the device and returns it to a lab via mail. The device is designed to be durable during transport, protecting samples in shipment and maintaining stability without the need for refrigeration.
To enable broader adoption of remote blood collection for testing, Weavr Health offers Velvet to assay developers for lab evaluation so partners can validate their proprietary tests, including quantification of COVID-19 IgG antibodies. Contact us to learn more about the Velvet device.