Featuring: Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD
A team of Northwestern scientists have come together from across disciplines to develop a COVID-19 antibody test designed for at-home use. Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, is part of the team working on this test to determine prior exposure to the virus.
Although many patients who contract COVID-19 become seriously ill, a significant percentage of those infected may show mild symptoms or none at all, causing greater community spread. Serology tests, or antibody tests, are useful for determining prior exposure to a virus, like the one that causes COVID-19. However, current approaches to antibody testing have limitations: Point-of-care tests using finger stick blood are qualitative and often inaccurate, while more precise lab tests require venous blood.
In response to these limitations, a team of Northwestern biological anthropologists, pharmacists, scientists and physicians have come together to develop a new, at-home antibody test for COVID-19. This inexpensive, relatively painless test would allow people to collect their own blood with a finger prick and send samples to a lab through the mail.
Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, is part of the team working on this test. To broadly survey the population when few people are leaving their house requires a more accessible test, McNally says. The team is using the dried blood spot method pioneered by Northwestern anthropologist Thomas McDade, PhD, which allows the test to be safely sent in the mail. This approach overcomes the logistical challenges associated with venous blood collection at low cost. Since testing materials have been in short supply, the team manufactured key reagents. The team is also using an assay developed by the Florian Krammer, PhD, lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
McNally says next steps for the tests include community testing, a website to recruit study participants and compare results in different neighborhoods, and longitudinal data collection and analysis.
Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD
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