In a new study, researchers have developed a new blood test capturing previous exposure to COVID-19.
The new blood test looks for antibody signatures in the blood to find evidence of previous COVID-19 infection.
Initial results suggest many more people have been exposed to the virus in Australia than have been detected so far.
The research was conducted by a team at The Australian National University (ANU).
The new highly sensitive test measures the antibodies that follow the previous infection with SARS-CoV-2, and the study was conducted just before Australia’s second wave of outbreaks.
In the study, the team screened 3,000 blood samples provided by healthy people around Australia for antibodies to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
They found eight in 3,000 healthy people were likely to have been previously infected after accounting for false positives. No one in the study had been identified as COVID-19 positive before.
The researchers say that even with a conservative view of the results, the number translates to potentially around 30,000 people with the virus at that time.
The team estimates that around 0.28 percent of Australians—one in 350—had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by that time.
This suggests that instead of 11,000 cases that were detected from nasal swab testing, about 70,000 people had been exposed overall.
The team says the high-throughput robotic capacity enabled us to rapidly evaluate thousands of samples.
This will be important for assessing antibody levels in people receiving SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in the future.
One author of the study is Associate Professor Ian Cockburn.
The study is published in medRxiv.
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