A haemagglutination test for rapid detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2
Townsend A., Rijal P., Xiao J., Tan TK., Huang K-Y., Schimanski L., Huo J., Gupta N., Rahikainen R., Matthews P., Crook D., Hoosdally S., Street T., Rudkin J., Stoesser N., Karpe F., Neville M., Ploeg R., Oliveira M., Roberts D., Lamikanra A., Tsang H., Bown A., Vipond R., Mentzer A., Knight J., Kwok A., Screaton G., Mongkolsapaya J., Dejnirattisai W., Supasa P., Klenerman P., Dold C., Baillie J., Moore S., Openshaw P., Semple M., Turtle L., Ainsworth M., Allcock A., Beer S., Bibi S., Clutterbuck E., Espinosa A., Mendoza M., Georgiou D., Lockett T., Martinez J., Perez E., Sanchez V., Scozzafava G., Sobrinodiaz A., Thraves H., Joly E.
Serological detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 is essential for establishing rates of seroconversion in populations, detection of seroconversion after vaccination, and for seeking evidence for a level of antibody that may be protective against COVID-19 disease. Several high-performance commercial tests have been described, but these require centralised laboratory facilities that are comparatively expensive, and therefore not available universally. Red cell agglutination tests have a long history in blood typing, and general serology through linkage of reporter molecules to the red cell surface. They do not require special equipment, are read by eye, have short development times, low cost and can be applied as a Point of Care Test (POCT). We describe a red cell agglutination test for the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD). We show that the Haemagglutination Test (HAT) has a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 99% for detection of antibodies after a PCR diagnosed infection. The HAT can be titrated, detects rising titres in the first five days of hospital admission, correlates well with a commercial test that detects antibodies to the RBD, and can be applied as a point of care test. The developing reagent is composed of a previously described nanobody to a conserved glycophorin A epitope on red cells, linked to the RBD from SARS-CoV-2. It can be lyophilised for ease of shipping. We have scaled up production of this reagent to one gram, which is sufficient for ten million tests, at a cost of ~0.27 UK pence per test well. Aliquots of this reagent are ready to be supplied to qualified groups anywhere in the world that need to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, but do not have the facilities for high throughput commercial tests.