SUPERDRUG is the first high street shop to start selling coronavirus antibody tests to the public.
The retailer is offering an “accurate and reliable” home finger-prick test for £69 via its Online Doctor service.
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Superdrug is the first high street shop to start selling a finger prick antibody test for coronavirus to the public
Antibody tests, also known as the ‘have you had it test’, can show whether you’ve been infected with Covid-19.
They differ from antigen – or swab tests – which can determine whether someone currently has the virus.
It’s understood people who have been infected with coronavirus may have developed immunity, making them safe to return to work and allowing Britain’s economy to restart.
Superdrug’s home test requires a few drops of blood, which need to be collected into a small vial, before being returned using a free-post label in the secure packaging provided.
The results are then available online within 24 hours of the sample reaching the lab.
But those who take the test and receive a positive result are urged to continue following the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
Michael Henry, Superdrug’s Healthcare Director, said: “We’re launching a Covid-19 antibody test because we’re confident of its accuracy and reliability.
“The Public Health England approved test is an accessible way for people to know whether they have already been infected with Covid-19.
“The test will only be available online via our online doctor service and will not be available in our stores.”
An effective antibody test has been seen as one of the potential keys to easing lockdown.
If you’ve had coronavirus, experts believe you may have had an immune response and developed antibodies which reduces your risk of catching it again or spreading it to others.
But experts are yet to determine whether those with antibodies have immunity and if so, how long it lasts.
And getting a reliable and accurate antibody test has been a sticking point for the Government – who finally officially approved two in the last week.
However, these tests – one by Roche and the other by Abbott Labs – have not been made available to the general public just yet, and frontline workers will get priority when they are.
Superdrug doctor ambassador, Dr Zoe Williams comments “Now that Public Health England has approved certain antibody tests, it is great that Superdrug is offering the validated test to its customers.
“There are however things to consider before taking it.
“Receiving a positive antibody test result does not confer immunity, and it is important that people understand a positive test result does not mean you can be any more relaxed with the required hygiene and social distancing measures as set out by the government.”
How they work
Superdrug says all of the components of its home sampling kits are CE marked and the test is run by a UKAS-accredited laboratory.
It’s suitable for those over the age of 18 but you need to wait at least 14 days after experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, as that’s how long it can take to develop antibodies.
If you haven’t had any symptoms recently, or never had them, you can test at any time.
The kit is sent out in the post with instructions on how to carry out a finger prick test using a lancet – it’s similar to how diabetics test their sugar levels.
A few drops of blood need to be collected in a small vial, secured in the packaging and posted back to the lab.
The experts will then look for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus – the bug that causes Covid-19 – in the blood sample provided.
It detects the IgG, which is the protein that develops after infection, and if positive, it means that the person tested had the virus at some point.
Once the results are sent through from the lab, Superdrug online doctors will be able to review them and send a confidential secure message to the patient through their online account informing them of the outcome.
The retailer says its test has a sensitivity of 97.5 per cent – which means that 2.5 per cent of previous infections might go undetected.
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This might be for various reasons to do with there not being enough of an immune response developed by the individual, or the test not being able to detect the antibodies.
These people will be informed that they don’t have antibodies but can test again at another time if they wish.
The test has a specificity of 100 per cent, however, meaning that those who do get a positive result, can be sure the result is specific to coronavirus, and there’s no cross-reactivity between other viral antibodies – such as flu.
Antibody tests have been hailed as “game-changers” since early in the pandemic and scientists have been rapidly trying to develop an accurate and reliable test.
People who’ve had coronavirus are thought to have developed immunity to the bug, making them safe to return to work.
Recent studies have shown that nearly everyone who recovers from Covid-19 has developed antibodies within two to three weeks of their first symptoms.
But experts say more research is needed to determine how long this presumed immunity can last for.
Dr Alexander Edwards, an associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading, said: “Antibody tests are not yet going to confirm protective immunity for every individual with a positive result.
“Most people who have recovered would not be expected to become re-infected – but we don’t yet know how strong this protection is or how long it will last.”
Asked about antibody tests at today’s Downing Street press briefing, Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said: “What we don’t absolutely know is whether having the antibodies in those tests means that you won’t get the virus again.
“We will only know that over time through the sciene and understanding the type of antibody that’s being produced but also following people over time to see whether developing antibodies means you won’t get the virus again.
“I wouldn’t want people to think that just because you test positive for the antibody that it means you can do something different in terms of social distancing or change the way you behave.
“Until we are absolutely sure about the relationship between the antibody test and immunity we as scientists would say we need to tread cautiously going forward.
“That information will be available over time but it will take some time to get there.”
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Prof Gino Martini, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Chief Scientific Officer, said: “Any antibody test at present can only provide a partial picture.
“The real issue is that no-one knows the level of immunity that is conferred by having antibodies to coronavirus, how long it might last, and if you can become re-infected.
“We need much more information and data on immunity before we can understand the importance of having antibodies to the virus.”
When asked about the £69 charge for the test, Prof Lawrence Young, a professor in molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said: “Sounds expensive.”
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