The Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) is a biomedical and clinical research institute under the Ministry of Health, and in collaboration with Dr. Fekadu Geta Tafesse Laboratory in Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), has developed a COVID-19 antibody test.
The current diagnostic method to identify an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection is the reverse transcription polymerase amplification (RT-PCR). This test directly detects SARS-CoV-2 RNA and requires expensive and sophisticated laboratory equipment, long turnaround and high laboratory quality-assurance standards. In contrast, the COVID-19 antibody tests detect antibodies produced in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection with relative technical simplicity. Our immune system often takes several days (≥14 days) to produce detectable antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Thus, antibody tests are useful to know whether a person was infected in the past with SARS-CoV-2. They are more helpful to determine the actual burden of COVID-19 in a community or population.
Given the current high price-tag and domestic supply shortage for the antibody tests, AHRI has recently developed an in-house COVID-19 antibody test using a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 protein produced by the OHSU as a target protein to detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. AHRI’s antibody test performance is not inferior to those of currently commercially available COVID-19 antibody tests and has a huge potential to meet the domestic antibody test demand for serologic surveillance studies. Concordantly, AHRI is making all the preparations to produce the recombinant SARS-CoV-2 protein using a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 plasmid made by the OHSU so that antibody test supply-chain is sustainable. In collaboration with the Oromia Regional Health Bureau and other stakeholders, AHRI has recently begun serologic surveys among school children in the Oromia Regional State before and after three months of school reopening, and among health workers in 11 University Hospitals using its in-house developed COVID-19 antibody test.
The capacity and the experience gained through the present collaboration has created a platform at AHRI that would contribute to country’s response to similar current public health problems and future outbreaks in a robust and cost-effective manner.
AHRI would like to thank Ethiopian-Americans Mr. Mekonnen Ashagari and Dr. Jote Bulcha, and Ethiopian Airlines and the Ethiopian Embassy in the United States for their support towards the successful accomplishment of the COVID-19 antibody test development at AHRI.