Coronavirus test: NHS to provide antibody tests after successful negotiations

When it comes to testing for COVID-19, at the moment, the only testing available to all adults and children aged over five are swab tests to check if someone is infected with the deadly virus. However, tests will be available on the NHS “for people who need them”, No 10 stated. How do these tests work and does it mean if infected you may get infected again?


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Antibody tests will be supplied on the NHS after a deal was agreed on.

Health and care workers will be first in line for these tests in the hopes to bring a clearer picture on the amount of infections in the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out further details about these tests on the NHS today and will discuss in more detail the deal which was secured after successful negotiations between the Government and pharmaceutical firm Roche, Downing Street announced.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “The tests will be free for people who need them, as you would expect.

“NHS and care workers will be prioritised for the tests.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said that antibody testing will be a “game-changer “in the fight against COVID-19 as it may reveal how many people have had  coronavirus and may now have a degree of immunity.

What exactly is the antibody test and how does it work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said: “Antibody blood tests, also called antibody tests, check your blood by looking for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection with the virus.

“Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection.

“Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections.”


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Public Health England (PHE) said last week that scientific experts at its Porton Down facility had carried out an independent evaluation of a new antibody blood test developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche.

Professor John Newton, national co-ordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, said although it was still unclear to what extent the presence of antibodies indicates immunity to COVID-19, it was still a “very positive” development.

Professor Newton added: “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 percent.

“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 antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”

The coronavirus tests being used by the NHS already involve taking a swab up the nose or from the back of the throat.

These tests tell if a person currently has COVID-19.

The antibody test is a blood test which searches for antibodies in the blood to see whether a person has had the virus.

The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence people who have antibodies are protected from being infected again.

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