The Sun : What is the Roche antibody test and is the coronavirus test available in the UK?

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CORONAVIRUS antibody tests are the next stage in helping the UK overcome the killer bug.

The test is hoping to determine whether someone has had Covid-19 and if they are immune to it – and these are set to be available from next week.

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An antibody test uses a finger-prick to get a droplet of blood

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.

Testing for antibodies will help in the fight against coronavirus
Testing for antibodies will help in the fight against coronavirus

What is an antibody test?

An antibody test is different to the swab test that the Government is currently using to find out if someone currently has coronavirus.

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 Prime Minister's official spokesman said the idea of an "immunity certificate" was still under consideration if science showed that people developed immunity to Covid-19.

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.

Several different firms and Public Health England (PHE) have been working on tests to help ease the UK out of lockdown.

On May 14, it was revealed that the PHE had given the go-ahead to an antibody kit developed by Swiss healthcare company Roche.

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".

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

The one by Roche picks up 100 per cent of cases where somebody has had coronavirus in the past.

It's able to deliver results in just 18 minutes, the Government has said.


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Can I buy the Roche Diagnostics test in the UK?

Number 10 said the new antibody test would "certainly" be available for free on the NHS – but commercial discussions with Roche are ongoing.

And Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Thursday, May 21 that the Government had signed contracts with Roche and Abbott Labs – who have also seen their test approved – for 10 million tests.

Mr Hancock revealed that health and care workers will be among the first to receive them, along with patients.

The tests run on fully-automated equipment already widely installed by Roche at NHS sites across the UK.

The pharmaceutical firm said it would prioritise tests for distribution via the NHS before looking at how they may be sold to individuals.

They 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."

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