Antibodies are created by the body’s immune system as it learns to fight off infection. Professor John Newton, national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme said: “This is a very positive development because such a highly specific antibody test is a very reliable marker. This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection, although the extent to which the presence of antibodies indicates immunity remains unclear.”
What is the new coronavirus antibody test?
An antibody test is one which is carried out to see whether or not somebody has ever had coronavirus.
The test involves using a small sample of blood and testing it for antibodies to indicate exposure to coronavirus.
The test has been developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche.
Public Health England has evaluated the new Roche test and approved it as being safe and reliable for everyone to use.
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Can I get tested?
The test is not available for widespread testing just yet, but the Government assures it will arrive soon.
Officials plan to roll out the test to frontline workers first, such as those in social care or hospitals.
It is hoped that the test will become available to the public, although it is unclear whether it will be made freely available on the NHS.
Roche says it will be able to send hundreds of antibody tests to Britain on a weekly basis.
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How reliable is the test?
The test is able to detect 100 percent of people who have carried COVID-19 at some point.
This means it has 100 percent sensitivity, rendering it extremely reliable as a result.
It also has an accuracy of over 99.8 percent, meaning it will pick up almost everyone who has not had the virus.
A test that is 100 percent specific means all healthy individuals are correctly identified as healthy, so there are no false positives.
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Whether or not you have experienced symptoms of the virus does not matter when using the test.
Experts believe a fair fraction of people who have had the virus never actually develop symptoms, meaning they are asymptomatic.
The new test can identify people who have had coronavirus without them ever knowing or thinking they caught it.
Fighting antibodies which attack the coronavirus show that person has been infected in the past, but they do not prove they are protected against it in future.
If I’ve had coronavirus once, am I immune?
Most people infected with coronavirus only experience mild symptoms and recover, according to the World Health Organisation.
However, just because someone has recovered from the virus it does not mean you cannot catch it again, as the WHO confirmed in an April 24 statement.
The organisation said: “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
According to Li QinGyuan, director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at China Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, people who have been infected by COVID-19 develop a protective antibody – but it is still unclear how long the protection lasts.
Ms Li told USA Today: “However, in certain individuals, the antibody cannot last that long. For many patients who have been cured, there is a likelihood of relapse.”
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