Antibody testing, which has already been used in Germany, South Korea and Finland, is seen as a way for countries to break the deadlock by showing who has already had Covid-19 and could therefore have some degree of ‘immunity.
Roche, headquartered in Switzerland, says it will be able to produce its tens of millions tests by June and will then increase production “as quickly as possible”.
Geoff Twist, Managing Director of Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland, said: “Roche Diagnostics is working tirelessly to develop a high quality antibody test. We are now working with public health organizations to validate the new antibody test and our goal is to start a gradual deployment across the UK from mid-May.
“More than ever, it is essential that the industry works collaboratively with the NHS to help relieve pressures and deliver solutions – and again, this has allowed us to move forward extremely quickly.”
The British government has already cited antibody testing as a possible way to relax movement restrictions and social distancing, but has yet to identify those that are sufficiently precise. He ordered 3.5 million last month, but they turned out to be unusable because they were unreliable.
Experts from the University of Oxford, who are leading the UK testing effort, say the best have spotted immune cells only 70% of the time, while accuracy should be closer to 95% for ‘they succeed.
Last month Professor Sharon Peacock, director of infections at Public Health England, told MEPs that millions of home test kits would be available in a few days, only to have chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty cancel the idea a few hours later, citing concerns. on precision.
Roche did not specify the accuracy of his Elecsys serology test on Friday, but a spokesperson said he was “comfortable with the high performance data we see and would share the details closer to the moment.” of the launch ”.
He said it would be available to countries accepting CE marking, which means products sold in the European Economic Area meet the required standards, and he’s also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a emergency use authorization.
Roche joins US laboratories Abbott and Becton Dickinson and Co alongside Italy’s DiaSorin in a race to produce an antibody test for the coronavirus that is sufficiently accurate. The clamor for such a test has grown despite the fact that, as it is a new virus, no one knows how long immunity will last.