What is the Roche antibody test and is the Covid-19 test available in the UK? – The Sun

THE first coronavirus antibody test kit that could help ease the lockdown has been given the go-ahead by Public Health England.

No10 is now keen to get their hands on "as many of these as possible" after the potentially game-changing kit was developed by Swiss healthcare company Roche.

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The Government set a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April – and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the goal had been reached the beginning of May.

The figure was hit through NHS tests, "surveillance" testing in homes and home tests.

Who owns Roche and where is the company based?

Roche Diagnostics is owned by Roche, the world's largest biopharmaceutical company creating medicines and diagnostic tests.

The company is based in Basel, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1896.

Roche claims its new coronavirus test can spot 100 per cent of those who have had coronavirus with "no false negatives".

The test supports the detection of antibodies in patients who have been exposed to coronavirus and will therefore be immune from catching the bug again.

They will be instrumental in the UK lifting strict lockdown measures and allow people to return to work – with the government even suggesting granting "immunity passports" to those who pass the test.

What is an antibody test?

The antibody test is different to the swab test that the Government is currently using.

When a person gets infected with a virus, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight the infection.

After they recover, those antibodies float in the blood for months, maybe even years.

So a test that specifically looks for antibodies will be able to tell whether you've already been exposed to Covid-19.

Anyone who has already had the illness is presumed to be immune to getting it again.

The check that has been developed for Covid-19 is a finger-prick blood test, with the samples sent to laboratories and results available within a few days.

The tests are being developed by several different firms and Public Health England (PHE) is also working on its own test.

They still need to be validated to ensure they give accurate results.

Recent efforts to produce antibody tests have been plagued by inaccurate results, with the Government allegedly spending £16million on two million kits from China that didn’t work.

How does it work?

Dr Hilary Jones, a GP and resident doctor on Good Morning Britain, explained that it's "almost like a pregnancy test, except you need a drop of blood".

Antibody tests show who has already had coronavirus and is therefore immune.

Tests vary, but will principally be a finger-prick blood test, with the samples sent to laboratories and results available within a few days.

Can I buy the Roche Diagnostics test in the UK?

Roche is said to be on standby to provide hundreds of thousands of laboratory-based tests to the NHS each week.

The test will work on blood samples taken by a healthcare professional at least 14 days after the person developed Covid-19.

Professor John Newton, the national coordinator of the UK 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 per cent.

"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."

How does a home test for coronavirus work?

All essential workers can request a home test kit.

The tests will be delivered to your home so that you can test yourself without leaving the house.

The kit contains:

  • One swab
  • One plastic sample collection tube
  • One sample transportation tube (may not be in all kits)
  • A bag to send the sample back in
  • A set of instructions
  • Three stickers with a number and barcode on

It involves taking a swab of the nose and back of the throat and can be done by the person themselves or by someone else.

Once the swabs have been taken the sample should be placed in the tube provided and then sent to a testing laboratory to be analysed.

Government advice is to:

  • Blow your nose before taking the swab
  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser
  • Place the kit on a clean surface
  • Take swabs from the throat and nose
  • Place the swab in the tube and send back in the bag provided

Who is eligible for a home test?

On April 28, Matt Hancock said that the number of people eligible for the swab tests is around 25 million.

He expanded testing to include:

  • Care home residents, staff and NHS workers without symptoms
  • All over-65s and their families with symptoms
  • Anyone who has to leave home to work and has symptoms, including builders, plumbers, those in manufacturing
  • Families of anyone who leaves the house to work and has symptoms

This follows the announcement on April 24 that all essential workers with symptoms can book a coronavirus test, or order a home testing kit, using the online portal.

Essential workers who are self-isolating can be registered and referred for coronavirus testing by their employer.

Testing is most effective within three days of symptoms – a high temperature or new continuous cough – developing, Government guidelines state.

But the Government has been having some issues with the supply and demand of the tests.

The swab test can only tell whether a person has the virus, not if they have had it and recovered.

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