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Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina

Via Vincenzo Vela 6 - CH-6500 Bellinzona
Tel. +41 91 820 0300 - Fax +41 91 820 0302 - info [at] irb [dot] usi [dot] ch

The IRB at the forefront of the COVID serological tests in Ticino - first results

on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Institute for Biomedicine Research (IRB, affiliated to the USI) and Humabs BioMed (a subsidiary of Vir Biotechnology) joint their forces and expertise to test in the blood of healthcare professionals, who are at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response, the presence of antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This study, launched on April 16, is being done in collaboration with the Clinical Trial Unit of the EOC (Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale) and has involved different hospitals and clinics in Canton Ticino. Participation was very high and a month later, all serological tests and the evaluation of the first results are already performed.

Thanks to the interest and generosity of the health workers of the Canton, the study was able to enroll 4,728 volunteers from different sites. Analysis of the serum samples revealed that 9.73% of them have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The serological test used at the IRB was developed by Humabs BioMed and measures antibodies against the portion of the virus that is responsible for the infection of the host cells. Validation experiments confirmed the high specificity and sensitivity of the test. It is important to remember that the presence of specific antibodies does not yet allow establishing whether an individual is protected, partially or totally, from a re-infection. For this reason, it will be important to continue to track the donors who developed the antibodies over time to evaluate their evolution and persistence.

Special thanks go to the IRB and Humabs personnel, in particular to Sandra Jovic, Blanca Fernandez, Federico Mele, Chiara Silacci, Luca Piccoli (in the picture), Mariagrazia Uguccioni, Antonio Lanzavecchia and Federica Sallusto who made it possible to get these first results in a very short period of time.