LONDON, ONT -- A team of researchers at Western University in London, Ont. have developed a new COVID-19 antibody test they say is quicker, more accurate, and cheaper than any approved so far in Canada.

The team hopes the test will become an important tool in the pandemic to determine immunity within the population whether from previous infection or from vaccinations.

Professor Shawn Li worked with his colleagues at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western in collaboration with researchers from the University of Toronto to develop the test.

“This is significant because as vaccinations are carried out on large scales, a highly sensitive and specific antibody test will be invaluable to inform public health decisions, both for directing resource allocation and determining response to vaccination,” Li said in a release.

“I owe a lot to my colleagues and collaborators who have worked extremely hard to develop this antibody test in such a short time.”

Currently in Canada there are fewer than 20 antibody tests approved by Health Canada, but they are not ideal for community use due to high costs and the wait time for results.

Li’s test, while still under peer review, is able to be completed in just five minutes.

The test uses either serum or plasma samples to detect antibodies.

Early results have found no false negatives and virtually no false positive results.

The test could be a tool to help health officials measure the prevalence of the disease or disease protection within communities.

Health Canada says that in general the population needs to show immunity within 70 per cent of people in order to stem pandemic-level spread of the virus.