There are 2 main coronavirus tests. There is a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based test which is used to confirm whether an individual is positive for the Coronavirus and an Antibody-Antigen test used to determine whether an individual is producing antibodies against the Coronavirus. Antibodies are essential for fighting off disease and an important component of a person’s immune system.
How the Coronavirus PCR-based test works
A swab is taken from an individual who is suspected of having the virus. If the virus is present, RNA from the virus is extracted and converted to DNA through a process called reverse transcription. The obtained DNA is then amplified. Primers, which are a short section of DNA that match the DNA of interest, attach to the viral DNA. The viral DNA is then copied to obtain a large enough sample and compared with COVID-19 to confirm if the patient is positive for the virus. This form of testing is highly sensitive and specific which provides accurate results, however, obtaining the results is not fast.
How the Coronavirus Antibody-Antigen test works
Antibodies can attack pathogens such as the Coronavirus by binding to a complementary antigen on the surface of the invading pathogen and neutralising it. Antibodies can remain in a human’s body for weeks or even months, continuing to provide protection against foreign material.
Having a high proportion of COVID-19 antibodies indicates that is likely you may have had COVID-19. The Antibody-Antigen test produces fast results however testing materials produced do not provide an accurate enough result. Scientists are working hard to improve testing as well as providing vaccines for those who have not yet contracted the virus but are at high risk. Vaccination would minimise the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people from contracting the virus.
Recent information and discoveries
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), as of the 15th of June 2020 there have been more than 7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide. The R&D blueprint, which was designed to advance the process of research and development, has been released to accelerate diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19.
Trails for hydroxychloroquine have taken place but studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that the drug in not effective for treating the virus and in fact acts as a placebo.
New trails for a vaccine have recently started. The vaccine works by activating the immune system’s Killer T cells that eradicate infections in the body. Previous vaccines developed are based on antibodies however this most recent vaccine is based on T cells, in hopes to provide longer lasting immunity. Thomas Moore, a science correspondent at Sky News, stated that “the same T cell technology has been used to harness the body’s defence to fight skin cancer. Even those with advanced melanoma were far less likely to relapse. It gives Scientist’s confidence that it will work against the coronavirus”. Funding is needed to continue trials but “ten experimental vaccines are already in clinical trials worldwide.”
I hope more information will become available about ways in which the most vulnerable people in our community can be protected by preventing the transmission of the virus.