Covid-19 antibody test lacks ‘proper assessment’


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Image caption Antibody assessments are carried out in different nations, akin to Russia

Covid-19 antibody assessments for NHS and care employees are being rolled out with out “adequate assessment”, specialists warn.

The assessments may place an pointless burden on the NHS, the 14 senior lecturers say in a letter within the BMJ,

Last month, the federal government stated it had purchased 10 million antibody assessments and requested NHS trusts and care houses to make them accessible to employees in England.

Officials say the blood assessments – to see if somebody has had the virus – will play an “increasingly important role”.

Some sufferers and other people having routine blood assessments in England are being supplied them too.

What are antibody assessments?

They usually present if somebody – who has beforehand been unwell with a bug – has developed antibodies that provide safety in opposition to future bouts of the sickness.

But how the immune system reacts to the Covid-19 virus stays unsure.

With the present laboratory assessments, NHS England says, a optimistic consequence reveals an individual has had coronavirus.

But crucially, it doesn’t show they’ve immunity in opposition to future assaults or whether or not they may transmit the virus to others.

Nevertheless, well being officers say gathering the outcomes of those assessments will assist them perceive extra concerning the unfold of illness.

Public Health England has launched a research of 10,000 healthcare employees which entails antibody and different blood assessments to be taught extra about immunity to the virus.

What are the issues?

The group of scientists say as a optimistic result’s unable to show immunity, the assessments supply “no benefit” to hospitals and care employees.

The outcomes don’t change what private protecting gear employees should put on, for instance.

The lecturers additionally recommend there may be little information on how effectively the test works for individuals at highest danger – together with individuals belonging to some ethnic minorities and older sufferers.

Instead, they name for different fastidiously designed methods to assist monitor the unfold of the virus.

What do different specialists assume?

Prof Sir John Bell from Oxford University, who has suggested the federal government on antibody assessments, stated the teachers who wrote to the BMJ had underestimated the worth of the assessments.

“We do need to know how many people out there have been infected and the only way to do this is antibody testing,” he informed BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But he stated they had been proper to say there was not sufficient proof {that a} optimistic test indicated immunity. “You couldn’t safely use it as a way of telling people whether they could be exposed or not,” he stated.

Prof Martin Hibberd, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described the assessments as an essential part of the public-health response.

He added: “If used successfully, the data generated will be important surveillance information for understanding the effectiveness of control measures put in place.”

Meanwhile Dr Tom Wingfield, on the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, stated he shared the issues raised within the lecturers’ letter.

He added: “We don’t yet have sufficient evidence on accuracy and interpretation of antibody tests.”

A Public Health England official stated all assessments within the programme had been “extensively validated by the manufacturers and have received CE marks” indicating compliance with EU security requirements.

What about different components of the UK?

Wales is at present engaged on its testing insurance policies.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s chief medical officer has written to all well being boards to say they need to not supply “on-demand” antibody testing to NHS employees, care employees or sufferers.