Swiss manufacturer Roche has developed an antibody test to detect coronavirus antibodies.
The test was licensed for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 3 May 2020. Public Health England (PHE) has also approved the test for safe and widespread use.
Abbott Laboratories has also produced an antibody test for COVID-19, and the UK government has purchased 10 million Roche and Abbott tests.
How does the Roche antibody test work?
Roche’s new test works on blood samples taken by a healthcare professional at least 14 days after the person developed coronavirus. The blood samples are then processed in laboratories using Roche analysers in hospitals.
The analysers can provide results in around 18 minutes per test, and have the capacity to conduct 300 tests an hour, depending on the analyser used.
How accurate is the Roche test?
The test has 99.8% specificity in identifying cases where there aren’t any antibodies against COVID-19. It also has 100% sensitivity, which means that it will identify any antibodies which are present.
What antibodies does the Roche test identify?
The Roche test detects IgG antibodies, which the body produces against coronavirus in the later stages of infection, and may stay in the body for months or years following infection. Identifying these antibodies will help to determine if someone was infected with the virus that leads to COVID-19.
Can the Roche antibody test detect any immunity to coronavirus?
There is currently no agreement on the extent to which antibodies provide immunity to the virus, and results from the Roche test should not be interpreted as any guarantee of immunity. The test only detects whether you have been previously infected with coronavirus.
Can I buy the Roche antibody test?
No. The test is not available for purchase at this point.
When will the Roche antibody test be available?
It’s anticipated that the test will be available in the UK within the next few weeks.
Roche have stated that it can provide hundreds of thousands of the tests every week, and that it will make distributing tests via the NHS a priority, prior to looking at how tests can be sold to individuals.
Who is eligible for the Roche antibody test?
It’s expected that the test will be offered to frontline NHS workers first, before being made available to workers in social care, and then circulated more widely from there.
It remains uncertain how the test will be made available to the wider public. For the time being, people who are receiving blood tests for other health conditions will be offered a COVID-19 antibody test.
Can I take the Roche antibody test myself?
Not currently, and whether a license will be granted to allow users to collect a blood sample at home for either the Roche antibody test or the Abbott antibody test remains unclear.
At this stage, there is not sufficient evidence available to indicate that finger prick blood tests conducted from home provide accurate test results.
Is the Roche test going to be available outside of England?
Health officials in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will determine whether or not the test is rolled out in the respective countries, but if the test is launched in England, it’s likely to be circulated across the UK.
We offer an antibody test kit for coronavirus that you can find more information about here.