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Questions raised over validity of Coronavirus antibodies tests

Questions raised over validity of Coronavirus antibodies tests

Questions are being raised over tests being used in the UK to assess people suspected of contracting the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

The UK government has purchased 3.5 million serology tests which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma. The tests measure for raised levels of the antibodies that the body uses to fight the Coronavirus. Many of the tests being developed are pinprick blood tests, similar to instant HIV tests.

So far, it has been assumed that once a person has had and recovered from COVID-19, they have an immunity to it and this can be checked through the development of antibodies as shown in the test.

However, senior epidemiologists at the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned that there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with the virus cannot be infected again.

Speaking at a virtual news conference in Geneva, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist at the health body said,

"There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity.

"Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection."

"These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence - that level of antibodies - but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune."

Dr van Kerkhove stressed the need for tests to be validated to ensure they actually work as described.

It is understood that the World Health Organization is to shortly issue updated guidance on the issue.

 

Terms Explained:

Epidemiologists - Public health professions who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injuries in humans.

Serological - the scientific study of blood serum, the fluid and solute component of blood

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