A PRAM image in which each black dot represents one detected COVID-19 antibody molecule. (Credit: University of Illinois)

A cost-efficient COVID-19 antibody test costs less than $2 per test and is used with a desktop detection system that is suitable for point-of-care situations like clinics and physician offices.

The test requires only a finger-stick quantity of blood (~4 μL). The method the researchers used to detect COVID-19 antibody can also be adapted to detect other molecules, such as antibodies to other viral pathogens, biomarkers for cardiac disease, and biomarkers for cancer.

When COVID-19 began developing into a global crisis in early 2020, the research group was already working on an NIH-funded project to develop a “flu chip” that would rapidly determine the most likely cause of a fever by measuring several proteins within a droplet of blood. They decided to pivot their efforts to detect COVID-19 antibodies instead.

Serological (detected by blood sample) antibody testing is an important diagnostic tool for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have shown that measurement of SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies may be helpful for the diagnosis of suspected patients with negative RT-PCR results and for the identification of asymptomatic infections.

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