A new antibody test to check whether someone has been infected with coronavirus, and said to be 99 per cent accurate, has been certified for use across Europe.
Global diagnostics specialists Abbott, which has a UK base in Maidenhead, has said it is expecting to have shipped millions of the laboratory based lab tests across Europe by the end of May.
The company’s diagnostic test has been given a CE mark showing it complies with EU safety rules and can now be used in labs across the UK to test for antibodies created when a person has been infected with Covid-19.
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The test identifies the IgG protein the body produces when it has been infected by coronavirus and this can remain in the body for months and possibly years.
In tests Abbott claimed its product showed a sensitivity greater than 99 per cent, 14 days after a person developed symptoms.
The Abbott test, made in Europe, can be used in machines already in labs across the UK.
Antibody testing is crucial to helping identify patients who have had the coronavirus infection and have developed immunity as this will allow them to return to work and could be crucial for NHS workers and people in other key roles.
Rolling out widespread testing both for infected and recovered coronavirus patients is likely to be a key part of government measures to end the UK lockdown imposed on 23 March.
Mike Clayton, managing director of Abbott’s northern Europe diagnostics division said: “Abbott has been focused on bringing Covid-19 tests to market as quickly as possible to help address this pandemic.
“We are proud to be able to provide our antibody tests immediately as they will help understand who has had the virus, leading to greater confidence as we get back to living life. We are collaborating with the NHS, public health bodies and private laboratories across the UK to enable this test to be used here.”
Abbott is significantly scaling up its European manufacturing for antibody testing and has also said it will develop testing for detection of the antibody IgM in the near future to expand the range of possible antibody tests.
The health secretary told the daily Downing Street press conference yesterday that people over 65 and their families would now be eligible for testing, as well as people who leave their homes to work who have coronavirus symptoms.
Care home residents and staff will also be able to access tests – even if they do not have symptoms, as well as asymptomatic NHS patients and staff.
The demand for home testing kits has so far exceeded supplies with the government website for ordering tests forced to close within hours.
Key workers could no longer order any tests online by 9.10am on Monday – the fourth day in a row where tests have become unavailable within hours of the booking system opening.