Australian researchers developing COVID-19 immunity test

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Monash University and Alfred Health have announced their researchers are developing a rapid test to determine immunity to COVID-19 and the likely severity of a patient's symptoms.

The researchers said the test could be deployed to protect frontline health workers during the pandemic.

"Healthcare workers…are at high risk of getting infected and once that's detected they have to be removed from the workforce," said Monash University's Associate Professor Menno van Zelm.   

"Hopefully with such a test, we can early determine who is immune to the virus and get back to work."

The same-day blood test is similar to a test for the flu. It looks at immune system cells that make antibodies against viruses. The researchers believe the test will be able to predict whether patient's are likely to experience mild or more severe cases of COVID-19.

"It's really to determine how the immune response is generated to the virus," continued Associate Professor van Zelm.

"We really want to employ it to understand what is different between patients with a really mild form of disease versus severe form of disease."

Associate Professor van Zelm said the test, which is still undergoing trials, could also support the development of a vaccine.

"We're testing it now so that in the next one to two months we know exactly what it can do and then it's really a matter of being able, which funding and resourcing, to upscale it."