University of Pretoria scientists developing nanobodies aid COVID-19 treatment

Jamie McKane

MyBroadband Journalist
Mar 2, 2016


Honorary Master
Aug 23, 2013
“Nanobodies can also be used to design ‘dipstick’ tests, to test saliva, and produce a result in a few minutes, like a pregnancy test. These can be used in communities and homes for COVID-19 diagnosis. They can also be used in an airport testing centre,” says Professor Tahir (TS) Pillay, Head of Pathology and Chemical Pathology at the UP/National Health Laboratory Service, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, who is leading this research. “For example, before flying abroad, passengers can be tested, will get the result within 30 minutes and be allowed to check in or not.” His nanobody prototype test has been selected for the semi-finals of the 2020 GAP Innovation Competition: Biosciences, which is being hosted by the Innovation Hub in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency and Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

“Nanobodies are one-tenth the size of conventional antibodies, which makes them easier to work with while there is an urgent need for good, cheap, sensitive rapid tests for COVID-19,” he says. Currently, international airports such as Heathrow and airlines like Emirates are setting up testing centres where they will use nucleic acid testing to identify people who might have COVID-19 and could therefore be infectious. Another potential test is serology, which tests for antibodies, meaning if you have a high level of antibodies, you might be “safe” to travel and are unlikely to be carrying the virus.
Is the part that can be implemented the most quickly, the rest of it will require trials etc.