UAB researcher develops at home COVID-19 antibody testing kit

Researchers at UAB developed an at home antibody test.

UAB researchers create at home antibody tests

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Researchers at UAB developed an at home antibody test.

“Immunity is what is going to help us get rid of COVID for good,” UAB researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Radiology Dr. Benjamin Larimer said.

Dr. Larimer said usually does cancer research , but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he started researching the virus antibodies.

“We would take individual patient samples and use this technology to look at them in great depth,” Dr. Larimer said. “We analyze millions of different antibodies from each person’s blood and essentially figure out ‘what are the antibodies that are common across everyone’.”

He and his team created an at-home antibody testing kit. He said the test is for immunity monitoring.

“You get the vaccine and you don’t really see or feel anything and you wonder if it worked or not,” he said. “This test would allow you to see right in your own hand, ‘hey my immune system is making antibodies and is protecting me from COVID’. Knowing who has immunity will help us understand if the vaccines are working, because they work for almost everybody, but there is going to be a small percentage of people that they don’t work for.”

He said the test being an at-home kit makes it more widely accessible and easier than going to the doctors office and he said it’s also more accurate. He said his test is 95% accurate and 20% more sensitive than the gold standard antibody test.

“One of the problems with current antibody tests is you can sometimes pick out people’s common cold antibodies and mistake them for COVID antibodies,” Larimer said. “We have sort of carefully designed ours so it will not pick up common cold antibodies.”

Dr. Larimer said after you know your vaccine worked, antibody tests can also help you know for how long, which is important for long-term immunity monitoring.

“We know now that the vaccine works,” Larimer said. “But, we don’t know how long is it going to protect us for. People can test whether the vaccine worked for them and also continue to test in the future to know when it might be time to get a booster.”

Dr. Larimer said immunity to COVID-19 isn’t anticipated to last forever, so immunity monitoring could last for years. He said the test can tell people if they have already had the virus, but the CDC recommends getting the vaccine regardless of if you have had the virus or not.

“After you have had the vaccine, you are not going to be able to tell if your antibodies are from the vaccine or from COVID, but it doesn’t really matter because what it means is your immune system is ready. Three to four weeks after you get that second dose of the vaccine, that is when I would get the antibody test.”

Dr. Larimer said they hope to have the testing kit available in the next three months, but they are still waiting on FDA approval. He said it will be around twenty dollars.

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