Researchers at the US University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine have developed a new blood test to measure the body’s immune system response to the Covid-19 vaccine.

The first-of-its-kind test can assess antibody and T-cell responses to the Covid-19 vaccine in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who have undergone immune-suppressing anti-CD20 (aCD20) treatment.

It provides a clear picture of the immune response and can be integrated into a patient’s electronic health record to help clinicians provide counsel.

The blood test was developed with the support of the National Institutes of Health Autoimmunity Center of Excellence at Penn Medicine.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, MS patients often receive aCD20 therapy to reduce the numbers of B-cells, which are responsible for MS attacks.

When the B-cells are decreased with a CD20 treatment, the ability of patients to generate antibodies is significantly reduced, as B-cells are also responsible for producing antibodies.

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Measuring the number of antibodies in the blood is used to evaluate the immune response to vaccination.

Perelman School of Medicine Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics chair John Wherry said: “Right now, the most pressing application of this test is for Covid-19, but the immune system plays such a huge role in how the body fights most illnesses, there’s enormous potential for this test down the line.

“What’s more, many treatments for a range of conditions, like cancer, can weaken a patient’s immune system.

“We’re hopeful that, in the future, this test could be used widely to measure the ability of patients’ immune systems to fight a variety of illnesses.”

Last year, the University of Pennsylvania researchers and Perelman School of Medicine developed an odour-based test to identify hard-to-detect cancers.