New system helps to understand if a person has been infected with coronavirus in the past
– Congratulations on creating your first test system for detecting antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. What was required to create it?
– Research is going very fast, similar systems are in the USA, Europe, South Korea. But in Russia there are no serological tests available (antibody detection tests). Perhaps in research we keep up with the Novosibirsk Center for Virology and Biotechnology “Vector”.
The work consisted in the fact that we were able to accumulate a fragment of the Spike protein of a new coronavirus, isolate it, sorb it on a special plastic plate, and then, after adding to each cell (in the plate there are 96) drops of blood serum of ill or not sick people, there’s an understanding in them antibodies (IgG) to the virus or not.
– How do you understand that antibodies are present?
– If there are antibodies, then they firmly bind to the protein of the virus in the cells, and they can be detected using second antibodies, to which a special label is sewn. Accordingly, in our cells where there was serum with antibodies, a blue color appears.
– How did you get the protein itself?
“We got it with the help of an American group led by Professor Florian Krammer of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.” Our laboratory, along with a number of laboratories in other countries, received plasmid DNA samples from them, on the basis of which proteins could be obtained. We have gained them.
– Was there a risk of infection during the work of your laboratory staff with the virus protein?
– There is no. These plasmids do not encode the entire virus, but only one of its proteins. Accordingly, these works are not related to work with pathogens.
– How quickly do antibodies appear in the body of an ill COVID-19?
– If the disease was severe, antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus appear on the 5-6th day of the disease, that is, during the course of the disease. In the event that an infectious disease is weak, antibodies can appear only by the 20th day after the onset of symptoms.
– For how long do antibodies remain in the blood of people who have been ill with coronavirus?
– Theoretically, they should persist for a long time, but for sure this question has not been studied yet. Specialists in this field talk about the need to assess antibody levels in patients who have had similar coronaviruses – SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, whose outbreaks were in the early 2000s and 2010s, respectively. But there are few such patients, and I do not know the results of such studies. I am sure that Western scientific groups are already working on this. I think that the immune responses for SARS, which caused SARS in 2002-2003, and for the current virus will be similar in duration.
– What other questions will give the results of your work in the future?
– Thanks to the test systems that will be created on the basis of our prototype, you can identify people who have had coronavirus. Firstly, it will provide an opportunity to assess the extent of infection in the population. Secondly, you can use this data for practical purposes. For example, in Germany, for example, it came to the practical application of test systems for antibodies to coronavirus. There they are already discussing the question that under the conditions of quarantine, it would be removed for people with antibodies. Obviously, the virus is no longer dangerous for them, and they can work quietly. In addition, this may make it possible to assess the risks of infection for physicians in contact with patients.
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