A new all-species coronavirus test could help prevent another pandemic.
Scientists say the advance will help them track coronavirus variants in wild and domesticated animals.
They explained that they can now detect exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus – that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic – in any animal species.
Most current coronavirus antibody tests require specialized chemical reagents to detect host antibody responses against the virus in each species tested, impeding research across species.
The research team said that the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans also infects several animals.
She said the virus also mutates in those hosts, potentially leading to new variants that can endanger their – and human – health.
She explained that the new coronavirus test focuses on antibodies against a protein, called the N-protein, that is embedded in the virus’s nucleocapsid – a structure made up of proteins and nucleic acids contained within a viral membrane.
Fang said the N-protein makes a better target than the membrane-bound viral proteins that are usually used in tests for antibody responses.”
She added: “The N-protein is more abundant and it is more conserved than the proteins used in most tests.
“This means that the structure of the protein is more consistent across species, making it a good target for all-species antibody tests.”
The research team used an N-protein-based blocking ELISA protocol for their test. This method involves coating an ELISA plate with the N-protein, then adding a serum sample of whatever animal is being tested.
Fang said that if the animal has been infected with the coronavirus, its serum will contain anti-N-protein antibodies, which will bind to the N-protein-coated plate.
The scientists then wash the plate and add a secondary biotin-tagged monoclonal antibody that targets the N-protein.
If the animal is positive for coronavirus infection, its antibodies will block the secondary antibodies from binding to the N-protein.
If the animal has not been infected, the monoclonal antibodies will attach to the coated plate and generate a color signal when specific chemicals are added to the plate.
Further tests in domestic cats showed that the assay was able to detect infection within seven days of exposure to the virus.
Fang added: “The development of accurate cross-species coronavirus tests provides a useful tool for SARS-CoV-2 field surveillance in animal populations, helping scientists identify potential new animal reservoirs to prevent future disease outbreaks.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker