Blood tests – described by the Prime minister, Boris Johnson as that “change the game” – may indicate if a person has COVID-19[female[feminine in the past.
The government has bought 10 million test kits the pharmaceutical giant Abbott and Roche last month, with the first phase of the testing program, evaluating the NHS and social workers.
But in a letter published by the British Medical Journal, a group of academics and clinicians have expressed concerns about the performance of the tests and warned that they risked ” an inefficient use of scarce resources “.
They stated that a test result is positive or negative would not change the management of a patient, and added that a positive outcome ” does not indicate immunity “.
“The concept of” passport immunized “, allowing health care workers or other people work, has not been established, ” they wrote.
“The persons whose antibody test is positive should always consider risk and follow policies to control infections…. Therefore, there is no advantage for healthcare organizations or for others to know the status of the employees at the present time.”
The experts say that the tests are made ” at a pace and on a scale without precedent, without adequate assessment “.
There are currently no data showing the performance of the tests in people at high risk, including older people and those belonging to ethnic groups, black and minority, they add.
The NHS England requires that the results of antibody tests are available within 24 hours.
But the academics warn: “given that the routine testing of patients are not clinically urgent or to meet a public health need clear, this push to introduce a test not factual for uncertain gains risk is an inefficient use of scarce resources. ”
They concluded that the “only justification” current large-scale COVID-19[female[feminine the antibody screening is ” for research purposes “.
The letter is signed by 14 medical experts, including Dr. Monique Andersson, consultant in infection at the university Hospitals, Oxford; Neil French, professor of infectious diseases and global health at the University of Liverpool; and Deenan Pillay, professor of virology at University College London.
Antibodies are produced by the immune system when it is attacked in order to destroy substances which carry disease.
But the way the immune system reacts to the virus COVID-19 remains unclear.
The government website states that “even if the results of an antibody test will not allow people to change their behavior … it is clear that it is useful to know whether the NHS and social workers, and hospital patients and residents of care homes have had the virus, and collect data on the results of the tests” .
In a statement to the BMJ, the department of Health and social Affairs said: “We do not know currently how long does an antibody response to the virus, or if the fact of having antibodies means that a person cannot pass it on to others. ”
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But the spokesman reiterated that the test antibody ” will play a role increasingly important as we enter the next phase of our response to this pandemic “.
A spokesman for Roche Diagnostics UK has told the BMJ that the deployment of antibody testing in the NHS ” was part of the crucial next step for understanding the spread of this virus.”
In addition, a spokesman for public Health England said: “Our assessments have been completed in a record time by using the samples and tests that we have. We are convinced that the volume of the samples and methodology were of a high standard. “