NHS and nursing home staff will have access to coronavirus antibody testing starting next week amid plans to test ALL health professionals to see if they have had the virus
- Hundreds of thousands of first-line NHS and rescuers are offered the tests
- Tests search the blood for antibodies produced by the body in response to COVID-19
- The presence of antibodies is believed to provide a degree of immunity to the virus
- But experts say positive tests should not be viewed as a “green light” to reduce personal protective equipment
- Here’s how you can help people affected by Covid-19
NHS and nursing home staff will receive coronavirus antibody testing starting next week, ministers will announce today.
Hundreds of thousands of frontline workers are offered the tests that are processed in a laboratory and detect whether someone has ever had the disease.
The tests scour the blood for antibodies produced by the immune system in response to COVID-19, which are believed to provide some immunity to reinfection.
In most viral infections, the presence of antibodies reduces or removes the risk of reinfection, but this has not been proven with coronavirus.
Experts say positive tests should not simply be seen as a “green light” to reduce personal protective equipment or other protections for staff.
The Roche test, called Elecsys (pictured), provides lab results and is said to be 100 percent accurate
Prime Minister Boris Johnson or Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce the massive rollout of antibody tests at the press conference tonight, according to the Guardian.
Last week, the government purchased “100 percent accurate” antibody tests from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche and US company Abbott.
This week, Public Health England (PHE) also conducted validated tests by the Welsh company Ortho Clinical Diagnostics.
All three devices are laboratory-based, and it may take a day for results to be achieved.
No “ home pregnancy test ” kits have been approved yet, despite promises made in March that one would be available.
Known as the ‘have you have’ tests, antibody tests reveal whether someone has been infected with and recovered from COVID-19 in the past, but scientists are still unsure if this means protecting them from catching the virus again .
Some say, therefore, that there is “no point” in paying for a test because it is still not clear what the results mean.
WHICH ANTI-BODY TESTS HAVE BEEN APPROVED?
Antibody tests conducted by Abbott and Roche are the first antibody tests to be accurately ratified after weeks of disappointment by Public Health England.
The tests detect whether someone has had the virus and has subsequently recovered – which may indicate that they may be immune.
PHE said that the endorsement of the two tests conducted in its laboratories was a “very positive development.”
Both are likely to be used in the “test, track and trace” program that will be launched next week, in which anyone who has been in contact with a coronavirus patient will be tested.
The Department of Health is in talks with both companies about including the kits in its testing program, with NHS staff likely to gain access first.
The Abbott test is also sold privately for home use by health technology company Babylon and retailer Superdrug for £ 69.
The home use of the test – which uses a fingerstick blood stain instead of a whole blood sample – has only been confirmed by an independent laboratory and not yet by PHE.
Scientists have emphasized that while the two tests provide useful information about who is infected, it is not yet clear what proportion of these people will be immune to the disease.
The idea of ”immunity certificates” has therefore been put on the shelf for the time being, although No. 10 said it was still exploring.
Hopes have been high since March that antibody testing could enable workers to return to work.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered 3.5 million tests, but the best of them was able to detect only 70 percent of those infected.
The new tests solve that problem by using proven lab technology, rather than the ‘pregnancy test’ style kits that Hancock had hoped for. They also generate very few false positives, which means that they indicate that someone is infected when they are not.