The most common diagnostic tests for coronavirus involve a nasal swab that tests for the presence of the virus in the upper respiratory tract, or an antibody test, which identifies if a patient has developed antibodies to the virus. The nasal swab is often a hit-or-miss as it takes weeks to develop antibodies after the onset of infection.
But Xiling Shen, the Hawkins Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chris Woods, MD, the chief of the infectious disease division and associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, and a team of collaborators at Mount Sinai hope to address this problem by developing a new diagnostic test to identify carriers of the coronavirus before they become contagious and spread the disease and to predict whether their symptom will be severe enough to require ICU care.
“The current diagnostics for COVID-19 mainly focus on detecting the virus’s DNA or virus antibodies, both of which can take days or weeks to develop in large enough quantities to measure,” says Shen. “Rather than look for these specific viral markers, we wanted to develop a test that looks for more immediate changes in our own immune system as the body responds to a coronavirus infection.