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Singapore deploys antibody testing for COVID-19

The Singapore Ministry of Health has used an antibody test developed by the Duke-NUS Medical School to determine the source of a COVID-19 cluster. The ministry reported that it is the first use anywhere of antibody-based testing for exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The antibody test is important because it can be used to identify individuals who have been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic or have recovered from the disease.

Antibody tests can be used, as in the Singapore case, to trace and isolate disease clusters.

Antibody tests could be used more broadly to determine how and where SARS-CoV-2 is spreading in communities.

The Singapore MOH reported that antibody testing confirmed that a COVID-19 cluster at a church, the Grace Assembly of God, was linked to a cluster at another church, The Life Church and Missions Singapore, “where two travelers from Wuhan had visited and were likely to be the source of infection.”

The link was established when SARS-CoV-2 was detected in two individuals who had previously sought treatment, but were no longer symptomatic.

“Using two different antibody testing platforms (virus neutralization assay and ELISA assay), the team at Duke-NUS Medical School proved that the two suspect [cases] were indeed infected with COVID-19 in late January 2020, as they had very high levels of the virus-specific antibodies in their blood. This result was a significant piece of evidence which confirmed the links between the church clusters and the two Wuhan travelers.”

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