Uni developing ATK test kit

Uni developing ATK test kit

A team of researchers from Thammasat University say they are getting closer to developing an antibody test kit (ATK) for Covid-19 that will produce a result within 15 minutes.

After having spent almost a year conducting lab tests, the team from the Faculty of Allied Health Services said their efforts showed promising results in an initial evaluation, but more fine-tuning is required to improve the sensitivity of the test kit.

Jeeraphong Thanongsaksrikul, head of the research team, said the main goal was to develop highly efficient homegrown ATK kits to help control future outbreaks while cutting costs.

"We don't focus on competing with other ATK producers, as we are trying to develop an effective and accurate tool to test for Covid-19 infections and help the authorities correctly estimate the outbreak situation," he said.

Their ATK is designed to look for antibodies that the body creates to fight the virus. A positive result indicates the person is infected.

"In terms of epidemiology, neither RT-PCR or ATK tests are considered the best or proper tools for learning about new outbreaks as they can identify infected people but not immunity. So we can think of an antibody test kit as being a tool to fill this gap," Mr Jeeraphong said.

"It will help control future outbreaks by monitoring the situation in local communities through the testing of people's immunity levels," he added.

The kit requires a tiny sample of blood to verify the result within a quarter of an hour, he noted.

However, he admitted there are challenges ahead as the test kit need to accurately verify the difference in antibodies to see whether they were caused by a vaccine or them contracting the virus naturally.

To overcome this, the team selected a protein only found in the latter group so they were able to distinguish between immunity caused by natural infection versus the vaccine.

The kit is not expected to hit the market for another two years as more tests and pilot projects must be carried out.

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