England approves new COVID-19 antibody test

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London: A new antibody test to establish whether someone has been infected with coronavirus in the past has been approved by health officials in England, it emerged on Thursday.

Public Health England (PHE) said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a “very positive development”.

It involves a blood test that looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity.

“This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection,” said Professor John Newton, national co-ordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme.

“This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear,” he said.

More than 40,000 people have died due to the deadly coronavirus so far, The Gurdian reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously referred to such an antibody test as a “gamechanger” in the fight against the deadly virus.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Antibody testing is an important part of our strategy to counter the spread of COVID-19 and to help us understand who has had the disease”.

“In addition to the recent huge expansion of the UK’s swab-based coronavirus testing capacity, we are exploring the use of antibody testing across the NHS (National Health Service) and ultimately the wider public.”

“We are delighted that devices are progressing through validation, and are actively working on our plans for rolling out antibody testing and will make announcements in due course.” PHE said scientific experts at its Porton Down scientific facility had carried out an independent evaluation of the new blood test developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company.

The examination found that Roche’s serology test was “highly specific” and had an accuracy of 100 per cent.

The test is designed to help determine if a patient has had COVID-19 at some stage and whether they have developed antibodies against it.

The detection of these antibodies could help to indicate if a person has gained immunity against the virus.

Severin Schwan, chief executive of Roche Group, said: “Thanks to the enormous efforts of our dedicated colleagues we are now able to deliver a high-quality antibody test in high quantities, so we can support healthcare systems around the world with an important tool to better manage the COVID-19 health crisis.” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week the UK was in talks with Roche about a “very large-scale roll-out” of coronavirus antibody testing.