SCIENTISTS may now be able to identify thousands of other people infected with coronavirus through a “game-changer” blood test that can spot 98% of cases.
Diagnosing the virus will be an essential part of stopping its spread and lifting the lock around the world, but an accurate test has so far proven to be difficult.
Research has shown that up to 29% of tests performed on carriers produce a negative result.
While tests to try to detect a protein associated with the virus, the new test, developed by the University of Birmingham, is looking for antibodies produced by the body during Covid-19 is present.
Researchers say the method is much more effective in identifying people with no symptoms than up to 8 in 10 people thought were infected.
Alex Richter, of the Institute of Immunology in Birmingham, told the Courier that the promising results came from a study of 1,000 NHS workers.
“We have found that detecting antibodies in people who have been very sick in the hospital is quite simple,” she said.
“However, it appears that if you have a mild or asymptomatic disease infection your response may be lower in existing protein testing.
“In our test, we are using the correctly folded spike protein, which is the virus protein used to bind cells in the first place.
“We are 98% sensitive and it is a game changer for testing in the community and for other countries. ”
The test is also thought to be as accurate as the blood used in the test is taken from the veins and stored in a vial or drawn with a finger prick, and allowed to dry on a card.
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That might make it easier for people to do the test themselves at home and send in a sample to test.
The test is now scheduled to be introduced in wider use starting next month.
It will be made available through the Liaison Site, a diagnostic firm founded by researchers from the University of Birmingham.