An antibody, also known as VHH that can identify and neutralize a coronavirus, has been discovered by a team of researchers. Japan’s health minister Katsunobu Kato has announced the approval of the antigen that can quickly detect the novel coronavirus last May 12 at a news conference. The effectiveness of the approval starts from midnight and the individuals who have undergone the test would be covered by the national health insurance program. The test is developed to identify the presence of the protein that can bind to viruses’ characteristics and is often used to detect influenza.

The antigen will be distributed to the sectors of local public health centers who handle the consultation calls from those who wanted to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for a coronavirus. A swab to the throat or in the nose will be collected for this antigen test that will be used as an alternative to the PCR test, Kato said. If an individual tested positive in the antigen test, it would be considered a confirmed coronavirus infection. However, if an individual tested negative in the antigen test, they will be required to take the PCR test to confirm if they are infected. To prevent cluster infections, the antigen test will also be used on health care professionals and other staff at medical facilities. Confirmed infected patients and residents from the care facilities for the elderly will also be tested with the antigen.