SEOUL -- Rapid antibody screening will emerge as the core of a global fight against COVID-19, a genome analysis company said, predicting the method will be introduced in the U.S. in six months. When a virus invades the body, the immune system produces antibodies to fight it. Antibody tests have been used in South Korea to estimate the extent of infections at a population level.
Various indicators should be used for accurate diagnosis and treatment, said Lee Min-seob, co-CEO of Eone Diagnomics Genome Center (EDGC), an international joint venture which develops technology for genome analysis. "Rapid antibody tests can be conducted in a lab environment with simple facilities."
Lee told a forum hosted by Aju Business Daily in Seoul that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is interested in rapid antibody screening kits with high sensitivity and accuracy that can sort out asymptomatic virus carriers. "The Trump administration has pre-ordered 350 million rapid antibody kits," he said without disclosing details.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has adopted a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method that amplifies a specific DNA sample. Safe, low-cost and sensitive protocols have been developed for the quick screening of asymptomatic virus carriers, but KDCA officials were reluctant to use them.
South Korean health officials have been annoyed by asymptomatic infections and the dynamic nature of COVID-19. Diagnostic apparatus makers have insisted that a test examining initial antibodies produced in the body is quick, easy and cost-efficient.
"If you look at the list of diagnostic kits approved by the FDA earlier this year, you can see that most of them are from South Korean companies," Lee said. "Diagnostic kits produced by domestic companies have been used worldwide very successfully."
Diagnostic kits should be developed not only to check the presence of viruses but to ensure traceability, Lee said. "When we know where the virus actually came from, we need to create kits and experimental environments that can predict how it can develop and spread in the future."
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