A NEW antibody test to find out if people have ever had a coronavirus would be 99% accurate.
The test has been certified for use across Europe, which gives hope on this side of the Channel.
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Precise antibody testing could be a game-changer for locked-in countries.
This would allow experts to see how many people have already had the virus and potentially relax the rules for those who are immune.
Global diagnostic specialist Abbott, who has a UK base in Maidenhead, said he expected to have shipped millions of new laboratory tests across the UK by the end of May.
Abbott said the product had greater than 99% sensitivity in 73 coronavirus positive patients 14 days after the onset of symptoms.
It was also over 99% accurate in identifying 1,070 negative samples.
The tests have been CE marked to demonstrate that they comply with EU safety regulations and can be used in laboratories across the UK to test for antibodies that appear if someone has had the virus.
All the other millions of antibody tests examined by experts from the British government have not been precise enough to be reliable.
Some only detected a quarter of the cases accurately, while another was 97 per reliable – but still not good enough for scientists.
Associate Professor of Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, Dr. Simon Clarke told The Independent that the development of the test was “very important”.
He said, “The test tells you if you’ve ever been exposed to the virus and generated an immune response. What he can’t do is tell you if you are immune or not.
“Having antibodies per se does not give you protective immunity, it is possible, but we do not know. “
He said that some coronaviruses don’t leave people immune long-term.
Because of the new Covid-19, there is still uncertainty about the length of immunity.
Dr. Clarke warned that the tests would be helpful in understanding how a virus has passed through the population but would not be of immediate use in helping people break out of the lockdown.
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The tests look for the IgG protein that the body produces when it has been infected with a coronavirus that can stay in the body for months or even years.
The test can only be used by machines available in laboratories across the UK and is not the same as the “pin-prick” test that experts are trying to develop to give people answers in minutes , at home.
The tests could help stimulate government efforts to set up rigorous contact tracking.
Hope for home testing
Professor John Newton, director of government testing, said public antibody tests may be available as early as next month or early June.
He told the BBC: “We are optimistic that we will have a good antibody test when we need it, which is of course a little later in the progression of the pandemic. “
“Few people would be positive for an antibody test if we had one now, so the antibody tests come a little later. “
Abbott Director General of Northern Europe’s Diagnostic Division Mike Clayton said: “Abbott has focused on bringing Covid-19 tests to market as quickly as possible to help fight this pandemic .
“We are proud to be able to provide our antibody tests immediately because they will help us understand who had the virus, which will give us greater confidence when we return to life.”
“We are working with the NHS, public health organizations and private laboratories across the UK to allow this test to be used here. “
The health secretary announced earlier this week that he is expanding the scope of those eligible for the test – so anyone who has to leave home to go to work, or anyone over the age of 65 with symptoms could also get tested.
But the government is not expected to reach its goal of 100,000 tests today, and providing home test kits to make people too sick or too far away to go to a test center has proven difficult.
Key workers were unable to obtain home test kits for four consecutive days unless they were on the new online portal in the morning.
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