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Russian Scientists Develop Immunity Tests Against COVID-19

By Vusala Abbasova April 8, 2020

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Testing people’s blood for antibodies has become one of the most crucial elements of slowing the global pandemic that has already spread throughout the world, including Russia. / Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency

While finding a vaccine for coronavirus is a major priority at the moment, Russian scientists are also looking into creating a blood test to reveal if people have developed immunity to the virus known as COVID-19.

The Center of Genetics and Reproductive Medicine Genetico, along with Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology of the RAS (EIMB RAS), will develop and implement blood tests for coronavirus antibodies under a cooperation deal signed between the parties.

"The test, which is under development, will detect not the virus itself but antibodies and immunity to it," reads a statement issued by the Genetico Center on Monday. "With its help, it will be possible to identify people who have already recovered, including those with an asymptomatic or suppressed form of illness.

"It will also help identify people who have not yet encountered the virus, and those who do not have immunity to it," the center's statement reads.

Testing people’s blood for antibodies has become one of the most crucial elements of slowing the global pandemic that has already spread throughout the world, including Russia. What is the world's largest country of 144 million people has reported more than 8,600 coronavirus cases so far and 63 deaths toll, according to the official data.

The statement also pointed out that a group of researchers from EIMB RAS has already successfully conducted serologic tests on COVID-19 that made it possible to reveal antibodies in coronavirus survivors’ blood. Serologic tests, or sero-surveys, are different from the nose swabs used to diagnose active cases of COVID-19. By analyzing blood, researchers will be able to tell if a person developed certain antibodies in the blood, indicating that they were infected by the virus and recovered.

The head of the Genetico Center, Isaev believes that the new antibody test could potentially allow people who have immunity to return to work. That could be a huge boost to front-line health workers who may have been exposed to the virus but are desperately needed back in action.

"This is important for healthcare providers and many others who work despite the epidemic," RBK quoted Isaev as saying on Tuesday.

Isaev explained that the main component of the test system is the antigens of the virus, with which antibodies to coronavirus interact. According to him, the specialists plan to produce as much antigen to make this test system available in Russia.

Following the statement, the Genetico Center plans to prepare and submit documents for registration of the first test system for laboratories and rapid tests for personal use in the coming days.

"Estimated time to launch the testing system on the market is six weeks," Isaev commented.

As the new deadly virus continues to spread, Russian authorities have taken numerous steps, from shutting down schools and universities to canceling cultural and religious gatherings. Along with that, the Russian government extended a stay-at-home order through the end of the month.

In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in every corner of the globe.

According to data provided by Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, as of Wednesday, the novel coronavirus infected more than 1,4 million people worldwide, leading to nearly 83,000 deaths, with the epicenter shifting to the United States where infections and deaths are rising rapidly.