A research team led by Monash University in Australia has invented a blood test that can detect a positive Covid-19 result in 20 minutes.

The research team was led by BioPRIA and the university’s chemical engineering department, including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology (CBNS).

Designed as an agglutination assay, the test is based on common blood typing infrastructure. It was able to identify recent cases of Covid-19 with 25 microlitres of plasma from blood samples.

An agglutination assay is used to analyse for the presence and amount of a substance in the blood. The new test can detect the presence of antibodies generated in response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, said the researchers.

The virus causes an agglutination or a clustering of red blood cells that can be seen by the naked eye, enabling the team to determine positive or negative test results in approximately 20 minutes.

Existing swab / polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can identify individuals who are currently positive with Covid-19. The new test can determine if someone is currently infected and if they have been previously infected.

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In addition, the agglutination assay has the potential to support clinical trials by identifying antibodies produced in response to vaccination.

Medical practitioners will be able to use the test to analyse up to 200-700 blood samples an hour, noted the researchers.

Apart from population screening and case identification, the test is expected to help high-risk countries in contact tracing, vaccine efficacy confirmation in clinical trials and vaccine distribution.

CBNS chief investigator and Monash University chemical engineering senior lecturer Dr Simon Corrie said: “This simple assay, based on commonly used blood typing infrastructure and already manufactured at scale, can be rolled out rapidly across Australia and beyond.

“This test can be used in any lab that has blood typing infrastructure, which is extremely common across the world.”

The researchers have filed a patent for the invention and are seeking commercial and government support to scale up production.