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New ‘game-changer’ coronavirus antibody test 100% accurate, say Public Health England

The development of a reliable antibody test has been described as 'game-changing' (PA)

2 min read

The long wait for a coronavirus antibody test appears to be over after a version was given the go-ahead to be rolled out across the UK.

Developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, it was found to have a 100% accuracy rate by Public Health England (PHE).

The findings have been hailed as a "very positive development" in combating the coronavirus outbreak, as the test will determine if a patient has been exposed to the virus that causes Covid-19.

It will see if that person has developed antibodies against the disease, and can indicate if they have gained immunity against it.

It is different from the existing antigen tests used to simply check if someone currently has coronavirus.

Boris Johnson has described the development of an accurate antibody test tests as “game-changing”, and such a breakthrough has long been seen as key to helping Britain get back to work.

This new version was tested by PHE’s scientific experts at its Porton Down facility - who found the serology test was "highly specific" and had an accuracy of 100%.

Professor John Newton, national coordinator of the UK's Coronavirus Testing Programme, said: "We were confident that good quality antibody tests would become available when they were needed.

"Last week, scientific experts at PHE Porton Down carried out an independent evaluation of the new Roche Sars-CoV-2 serology assay in record time, concluding that it is a highly specific assay with specificity of 100%.

"This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker of past infection.

"This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of anti-bodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was working on plans to roll out antibody testing.

A spokesperson 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 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."

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