COVID-19 antibodies test kits (right) and digital reader device (left in black) can detect levels of COVID-19 antibodies from a drop of blood in just 10 minutes. (Credit: NTU)

A team of scientists from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a quick test kit that can tell whether a person has immunity against COVID-19 and its variants, based on the antibodies detected in a blood sample.

Different from ART test kits, which look for the presence of viral proteins produced during a COVID-19 infection to determine if a person is infected, this rapid point-of-care test kit is a serology test that measures antibodies made by the patient. It requires a drop of blood and takes just 10 minutes to show results, as compared to the 24–72 hours required for conventional laboratory testing.

The test kit detects the levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-COV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, and its variants such as Delta and Omicron, and can be easily adapted for new variants of concern and other diseases in the future.

Using a paper-based assay coated with chemicals that bind to antibodies in the blood sample, the test kit is low-cost and fast, and it has up to 93 percent accuracy. It paves the way for personalized vaccination strategies, where people are only given vaccinations and booster shots when necessary, depending on their variance in antibody levels and immune response.