A*Star co-develops test that can tell within 15 minutes if someone's been exposed to the coronavirus

The test kit detects antibodies known as IgG and IgM. PHOTO: MP BIOMEDICALS

SINGAPORE - The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and diagnostic corporation MP Biomedicals Asia Pacific have produced a rapid antibody test kit that can tell if someone has been exposed to the coronavirus within 15 minutes.

Called Assure, the test kit detects antibodies known as IgG and IgM, which are produced by the human immune system after it has been exposed to Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

In a joint release on Friday (July 24), the organisations explained that studies have shown that levels of IgG and IgM appear to be correlated with the severity of Covid-19, making them good markers of whether someone has been infected before.

The kit uses specially designed proteins, combined with tiny gold nanoparticles, which bind to the antibodies in blood, plasma or serum samples taken from patients.

In a similar manner to a pregnancy test, if the antibodies are present, the resulting molecules will form a visible line showing the test result.

While the test kit is not meant to diagnose people with Covid-19, it can help to determine whether an individual has been previously exposed to the virus.

This can help identify asymptomatic individuals or those with only mild symptoms who did not undergo a polymerase chain reaction test.

It is also a point-of-care test kit, which means patients may be able to be tested and receive their results at clinics where the kit is deployed, without needing to wait for a lab to process them.

The organisations, which started developing the kit in March this year, said Assure was evaluated by the National University Hospital's Department of Laboratory Medicine, and demonstrated good results for both serum and whole blood.

The kit's sensitivity was also comparable to other commercial tests, and has been granted provisional authorisation by the Health Sciences Authority for use here.

MP Biomedicals said it has started to ramp up the production of the test kit here, and it is ready to be deployed at any time. It has also been distributed to regions such as Europe, Africa and South America.

The corporation's senior research and development manager, Dr Delynn Xu, said: "We are not the first one in the market but chasing the best performance is always our primary goal. With this rapid antibody test kit, we are proud to contribute to the global fight against Covid-19."

The chief executive of A*Star's Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, Dr Sidney Yee, said: "This rapid serological point-of-care test kit... will complement global efforts to develop more efficient diagnostics, as the Covid-19 situation continues to evolve."

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