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How a dot on your forearm could be the future sign of COVID immunity

Diomics developing 2 new ways to monitor the virus
Diomics test monitors for COVID-19 antibodies
Posted at 5:04 PM, Aug 21, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — When you are out in public, it is virtually impossible to tell who has immunity to the coronavirus and who is susceptible.

A San Diego-based company is trying to change that by developing two new COVID-19 monitoring systems that are as easy as checking someone’s forearm.

Diomics is developing a device that looks like a nicotine patch that the company says can reveal the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 24 to 36 hours. The patch is intended to be worn for one to two weeks, offering people a way to monitor -- and potentially display -- their infection status, according to CEO Anthony Zolezzi.

When the patch, named Diocheck, detects antibodies circulating in the blood, it turns red.

“We think this is an integral piece of getting things back to normal,” Zolezzi said. “This can get the country back operating and get us comfortable that the people around us aren’t infected.”

A second device, made from thousands of tiny polymer beads, can be injected into the skin and offer COVID monitoring for six months to a year, Zolezzi said. The company is still testing how long the test can stay active before it’s safely absorbed by the body.

The company plans to launch clinical trials at UC Irvine next month.

Zolezzi envisions the tests would be useful for employees in numerous sectors, including the airline industry, the cruise industry, the gambling industry and the military, offering a new way to detect and rapidly quarantine infected individuals.

Once a coronavirus vaccine is released, the tests could be a useful companion, he said, since it will likely take several weeks to develop protective antibodies after inoculation. An individual wearing the patch, for example, could find out when they have antibodies circulating in the blood.

The tests could also show when a person begins to lose antibodies. Studies have show individuals with a mild coronavirus infection lose antibodies after a few months, and it’s common for vaccines to require multiple doses.

“This patch will show you, when the color dissipates, it’s because your antibodies have dissipated,” Zolezzi said. “That’s the time when you need to get a boost, or some type of prophylaxis.”

The small biotech firm with less than 20 employees is leveraging technology that’s more than 100 years old.

In 1907, a French physician named Charles Mantoux developed an injection test for tuberculosis that produces a raised, red dot on the skin when the bacteria is detected. This is the standard test given today.

“All we’re doing is modernizing it,” Zolezzi said. The company’s patented slow-release material allows for much longer monitoring, he added.

Diomics was making skin care, wound care and diabetes products before the pandemic shifted the company’s focus. Their components are FDA approved individually, but will need new approval for this use, Zolezzi said.

Zolezzi said production is underway, but the company is hoping to partner with a large drugmaker to rapidly scale up manufacturing. Their goal is to have products on the market by the end of the year.