New '100% accurate' COVID-19 antibody test approved in UK
Public Health England said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a "very positive development". The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity.
A new "game-changing" and 100 per cent accurate antibody test that can tell whether someone has had the novel coronavirus has been approved for public use in the UK, public health officials have said.
Public Health England (PHE) said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a "very positive development".
The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity. Antibody tests will help answer questions such as how far and how easily the virus has spread and, crucially, how deadly it really is.
The British government said it was talking with Roche on rolling out its test after a Public Health England laboratory at Porton Down, in Wiltshire, concluded it had 100% specificity. That means it can detect antibodies to the exact disease rather than similar ones. "This has the potential to be a game changer," said Edward Argar, Britain's junior health minister.
"We are now moving as fast as we can to discuss with Roche purchasing of those but I can't give you an exact date when we'll be able to start rolling them out," he said.
The Roche test received a conformity assessment, known as Conformité Européenne, or CE mark, from the European Union on April 28 and received Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration on May 2.
"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 33,000 people have died due to the deadly coronavirus in the UK so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
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."
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.