A good two months after the first infection with the coronavirus was reported in Germany, Leibniz IPHT and the Weimar diagnostics company Senova were already able to present an antibody test for the novel virus at the beginning of April: ready-to-use and available on the market. The test uses a blood sample to indicate within ten minutes whether a person is in the acute phase of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (IgM antibodies) or has already recovered from the infection (IgG antibodies).

The strip test is a lateral flow assay. A drop of blood from the fingertip is sufficient and after about ten minutes, lines on the test strip indicate whether one of two types of antibodies has been found. The IgM antibodies are found in the blood just a few days after infection, while the IgG antibodies are formed later in the course of infection. They usually remain detectable for many months and indicate an existing immunity. According to the Robert Koch Institute, there is currently no clear answer to the question of whether a person is permanently immune after contracting Covid-19 (as of January 2021).

Already after the first reports of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Senova and the team from Leibniz IPHT had started to develop the test with a Chinese company and the medical device distributor Servoprax.

"Getting to an available product so quickly is only possible when partners from industry, science, and medicine work hand in hand, as we do at the Infectognostics Research Campus Jena," emphasizes Ralf Ehricht from Leibniz IPHT. His team from the research department "Optical-­Molecular ­Diagnostics and Systems Technology" has been working on the development, evaluation, and quality control of the rapid test.