COVID-19 - Coronavirus disease 2019

Developement of a rapid test for screening and charaterization of immune response against the Sars-Cov-2 virus – SeroCov

Submission summary

On 03-11-2020, the WHO declared a pandemic, due to an emerging betacoronavirus identified in China on 12-31-2019, named SARS-CoV-2. Responsible of the COVID19 syndrome, this virus induces a pathology which clinical spectrum ranges from asymptomatic cases to the occurrence of ARDS. Molecular biology tests were rapidly developed, allowing the detection of viral RNA, and adapted to the diagnosis of acute infection. However, gaps remain in the knowledge of this infection, notably due to the lack of reliable tools of investigation. Accurate assessment of the magnitude of this pandemic remains a priority goal, in order to facilitate the implementation of appropriate public health measures at local and global level. Many data remain difficult to estimate at this time, such as incidence and prevalence of the infection in the population, or the actual proportion of infected patients with few or no symptoms. Immunologically, the humoral response of individuals remains to be characterized, in order to estimate the rate of natural immunization, namely protection against this infection, in a given population. This information will be essential in a context of durably established or seasonal infection. Similarly, the study of immune response would allow a better understanding of the variable severity of the infection due to host factors and would even elucidate the origins of the strong geographical disparities observed in terms of mortality. Although these differences are also probably explained by environmental factors, it is still essential to have simple but reliable indicators to define the epidemiological contours of the infection. It will be crucial to identify causal relations in the occurrence of severe forms, in order to improve and guide current or future preventive and protective actions. Finally, in the event of a limited availability of a vaccine or other prophylactic means, serological indicators which can determine the herd immunity rate of a population will help to identify the categories of individuals to target. Determining serological status of a patient will also be essential to identify seronegative individuals and therefore potentially at risk of infection. For these reasons and noting the current lack of serological tests, we propose in this project to rapidly develop this type of tool, based on bioinformatic predictions, notably by mapping the SARS-CoV-2 immunogenic epitopes. This extensive screening will concern 3 viral proteins (nucleocapsid, S envelope protein, and the SARS-CoV-2 specific NS8 protein), in order to guide the choice of immunogenic synthetic peptides, used as the solid phase of an ELISA. This approach has many advantages, including the simplicity of the peptide production process compared to recombinant antigens, more complex to obtain and purify. Once developed, our goal is the massive sharing of this test with virology laboratories, public health organizations, but also with research units working on more fundamental aspects directed towards the obtention of a vaccine. To this end, our project specifications will be simple to implement, and ideally aim at the use of the test by community laboratories, as close as possible to the patient. In fact, while the development of this test has expected public health benefits, it will also provide a better understanding of the COVID19 pathophysiology and immune mechanisms.

Project coordination

Christophe Hourioux (Unité inserm U1259)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


U1259 Unité inserm U1259

Help of the ANR 30,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2020 - 18 Months

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