An antibody test for COVID-19 that could help ease lockdown measures in the UK has been approved by Public Health England
Downing Street has said that its keen to get its hands on “as many of these as possible” after the new ground-breaking antibody testing kit was developed by Swiss healthcare company Roche.
According to The Telegraph, the test was approved by Public Health England‘s Porton Down facility last week, while the government is now in discussions to buy millions of these new testing kits.
The UK government has come under heavy criticism after repeatedly missing their COVID-19 testing targets.
Roche is reportedly on ready to produce hundreds of thousands of the laboratory-based tests every week to the NHS.
Recent efforts to produce antibody tests for the coronavirus have been produced many inaccurate results, but Public Health England has backed Roche Diagnostics’ claims that their new test can spot 100% of those who have contracted the virus with “no false negatives”.
The new test detects antibodies in those who have previously been exposed to COVID-19 and will therefore be immune from contracting the coronavirus again.
When someone contracts COVID-19, the body starts to produce specially designed proteins called antibodies in order to fight the coronavirus.
After they recover, those antibodies remain in the person’s blood for months, and could even stay for years.
Professor John Newton, the national coordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme, said:
“We were confident that good quality antibody tests would become available when they were needed.”
“Last week, scientific experts at PHE Porton Down carried out an independent evaluation of the new Roche SARS-CoV-2 serology assay in record time, concluding that it is a highly specific assay with specificity of 100 per cent.
“This is a very positive development, because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection.
“This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection, although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”
Sir John Bell, Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said that the new antibody tests are “a major step forward” in the evolution of testing for the coronavirus, but said that there needs to be more work done in terms of understanding positive results.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “There will be further iterations of these tests because there are ways to make them better I think and we are still yet to understand what a positive result actually means.”
“We’re not there yet but this is a big step in the right direction.”
The University of Manchester announced that a team of biotech researchers is developing their own at-home Covid-19 testing kit that could be used like a pregnancy test.