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Coronavirus: Antibody test lacks ‘proper assessment’

Bangla sanglap desk:Covid-19 antibody tests for NHS and care staff are being rolled out without “adequate assessment”, experts warn.

The tests could place an unnecessary burden on the NHS, the 14 senior academics say in a letter in the BMJ.

Last month, the government said it had bought 10 million antibody tests and asked NHS trusts and care homes to make them available to staff in England.

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

Some patients and people having routine blood tests in England are being offered them too.

What are antibody tests?
They normally show if someone – who has previously been unwell with a bug – has developed antibodies that offer protection against future bouts of the illness.

But how the immune system reacts to the Covid-19 virus remains uncertain.

With the current laboratory tests, NHS England says, a positive result shows a person has had coronavirus.

But crucially, it does not prove they have immunity against future attacks or whether they could transmit the virus to others.

Nevertheless, health officials say gathering the results of these tests will help them understand more about the spread of disease.

Public Health England has launched a study of 10,000 healthcare workers which involves antibody and other blood tests to learn more about immunity to the virus.

What are the concerns?
The group of scientists say as a positive result is unable to prove immunity, the tests offer “no benefit” to hospitals and care staff.

The results do not change what personal protective equipment staff must wear, for example.

The academics also suggest there is little data on how well the test works for people at highest risk – including people belonging to some ethnic minorities and older patients.

Instead, they call for other carefully designed strategies to help monitor the spread of the virus.

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