A test for coronavirus antibodies developed by Swiss manufacturer Roche has shown to be 100 percent effective and British health authorities are hoping to deploy it immediately to frontline workers, Yahoo News U.K. reports.
The “Roche Test,” as it’s being called, tests a patient’s blood for antibodies for the coronavirus. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system that destroy invading cells and are specific to each pathogen. Therefore, a person who has already contracted the disease will have coronavirus antibodies present in their system. This also means they are unlikely to contract the disease again.
The test is specifically looking for antibodies that were formed in response to SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that is currently causing the COVID-19 pandemic, which is only one virus in the coronavirus family.
Specifically, according to The Guardian, the patient will provide a blood sample no earlier than 14 days after their symptoms first began — or at any time if the person never had any symptoms. The sample will then be tested in a machine that can process 300 tests per hour. The results should be ready in 18 minutes.
The Swiss manufacturer’s test has been shown to be 100 percent accurate, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The development of an antibody test that is quick and reliable could be the most powerful tool yet in the battle against the coronavirus. Indeed, so bullish is U.K. Health Minister Edward Argar on the test that he called it a “game changer,” according to a companion report in The Guardian.
With fast and reliable antibody testing now seemingly available, public health officials can begin to get an idea of how many people have contracted the disease and survived it. Those who have had the disease can perhaps more safely return to work or other activities, although the presence of antibodies doesn’t guarantee immunity from reinfection. However, this data could be a good step toward reopening the British economy.
Argar wants the test to first be deployed to frontline health care workers and then to workers in health care with less direct contact with sick patients.
“We are keen to get as many as quickly as we can and get them out, primarily to the front line first, the [National Health Service], social care and then more widely,” he said.
Argar cautioned, however, that the tests are not yet available to the general public. He did not specify when it would be possible for even more wide-spread use of the tests.