University of Tartu scientists develop SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection test

With the permission of the Ethics Committee, scientists from the University of Tartu Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine analysed blood plasma samples taken at Tartu University Hospital from patients suffering from COVID-19 and confirmed the effectiveness of their method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

In the course of their study, which was carried out with the permission of the Ethics Committee, the scientists gained confirmation of the effectiveness of the method they had developed for detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

Antibodies are produced in the bodies of those suffering from COVID-19 within 14-28 days of becoming infected. Testing patients in regard to their antibodies can confirm their having become infected and determine whether they have developed immunity to coronavirus.

The method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was developed by a team at the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine of the University of Tartu led by head of department and professor of molecular immunology Pärt Peterson. He says that the new method is quick, easy and suitable for analysing hundreds of COVID-19 samples a day.

The LIPS method was used to detect the antibodies, the advantage of which is that it measures the binding of the antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 proteins in a manner that is as close to natural conditions as possible. Peterson says that LIPS would be suitable for assessing the antibodies in the blood plasma of risk groups such as medical workers and the residents and staff of nursing homes.

“The antibody test we’ve developed using this method is the first real breakthrough we’ve made here at the university in regard to COVID-19,” he said. “We have very few samples to work with at the moment though, so to see the bigger picture we really need to analyse the blood plasma of between a hundred and two hundred people who’ve had the virus. That task still lies ahead of us and our partners, and of course we’ll need the permission of the Ethics Committee to go ahead with further blood tests.”

Peterson hopes that other antibody tests will also become available in the near future and that the different tests will be able to be compared. Rapid testing is already being offered on the market, but so far there is limited data on the accuracy of its results.

Contributing to the testing method developed at the University of Tartu was the laboratory team at the Institute of Biomedicine, comprising Liis Haljasmägi, Anu Remm, Hanna Sein and Kai Kisand. Professor Peterson also expressed his thanks to Anu Tamm at Tartu University Hospital and to Andres Männik and Mart Ustav at Icosagen. “Without all of their help we wouldn’t have been able to get this method to work as quickly as we have,” he said.

Further information: Pärt Peterson, Professor of Molecular Immunology, University of Tartu | +372 737 4202 |