NHS gets second test that shows if you have the virus

Five million antibody kits are on standby for the NHS after a SECOND test that shows if you’ve had coronavirus was approved by officials

  • The new test produced by Abbott has been approved by Public Health England
  • It is the second test to be ratified in two days after one by Roche Diagnostics
  • The Department of Health is in talks with both firms to use in its test programme 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Five million coronavirus antibody kits are on standby for NHS use after a second test was approved by health officials.

The new test – produced by medical giant Abbott – has been given the green light by Public Health England as spotting 100 per cent of those who have had the virus.

It is the second antibody test to be ratified in two days, following the approval of a kit made by Roche Diagnostics. Abbott last night said it had already started shipping equipment to NHS laboratories in preparation for the tests to be given to the first recipients within days.

A spokesman for the firm said it had capacity to provide five million tests a month to the UK ‘with immediate effect’.

Medical giant Abbott has produced the second coronavirus antibody test kit to be ratified in two days with five million kits currently on standby for the NHS

The test has been given the green light by Public Health England as spotting 100 per cent of those who have had the virus, after a test made by Roche Diagnostics was also approved

They are the first antibody tests to be ratified as accurate by Public Health England, after weeks of disappointments. The tests detect whether someone has had the virus and then recovered – which could indicate they may be immune.

The Department of Health is in conversations with both firms about incorporating the kits into its testing programme, with NHS staff likely to be first to get access. The Abbott test is also being sold privately for home use by health tech firm Babylon for £69.

Home use of the test – which uses a spot of blood from a finger prick rather than a full blood sample – has only been confirmed as accurate by an independent lab, and not yet by Public Health England.

PHE said the ratification of the two tests performed in its labs was a ‘very positive development’.

Both are likely to be used in the ‘test, track and trace’ programme being launched next week, in which anyone who has been in contact with a coronavirus patient will be tested. Scientists last night stressed that although the two tests offer useful information about who has been infected, it is not yet clear what proportion of these people will be immune to the disease.

The idea of ‘immunity certificates’ has been shelved for now because of this, although No 10 said it was still exploring it.

Hopes have run high since March that antibody tests could allow employees to return to work.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered 3.5million tests but it turned out the best of them could spot only 70 per cent of those who had been infected. The new tests resolve that problem by using proven lab-based technology, rather than the ‘pregnancy-test’ style kits Mr Hancock had pinned his hopes on. They also generate very few ‘false positives’ – which means indicating someone has been infected when they have not.

Professor Matt Keeling, of the University of Warwick, said: ‘This could be a complete game-changer.’ It is expected that both tests will eventually be available for free as part of the national testing programme, though it is not clear whether people will be able to simply order them.

What are the coronavirus antibody tests? 

 What are the tests?

Antibody tests detect those who’ve recovered from Covid.

How are they done?

The two ratified tests use a vial of blood, taken via needle by a nurse then processed in a lab.

How can I get one?

They will initially be for NHS staff but are likely to be used in the ‘contact tracing’ scheme.

Will it say I’m immune?

At least 95 per cent of people with the antibodies retain some protection – but it is not clear if this lasts weeks or years.

Why are they useful?

To track the virus and help find out how many have had it.

Are they accurate?

Both catch 100 per cent of cases where someone has had Covid and give few ‘false positives’.

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