“The one thing worse than no test is a bad test”Chris WittyChief Medical Officer
Are COVID-19 Antibody Tests Safe To Use?
There have been reports of antibody tests underperforming in the media.
First, Spain returned thousands of faulty tests, then Italy, and more recently the 3.5m tests ordered by the UK Government were found to be ineffective.
Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, has been tasked with assessing the effectiveness of various antibody tests on behalf of the government. His feedback was that none had performed adequately to be recommended for broad population testing. (We hope he will make this research public soon so buyers can recognise low quality sellers, and we will share this with you as soon as we have it.)
The fact is, due to the rush to produce these tests, many manufacturers cut corners to get their products to market first – which has led to a swathe of unsuitable tests entering the market at a time when governments are desperate for solutions.
Likewise, there are similar opportunists who are knowingly distributing the tests with false information.
Proceed With Caution
After Spain reported their problems, China responded by demanding new accreditation from manufacturers of all COVID-19 response equipment. Anyone not on the approved list is now forbidden from exporting their products.
Progress continues weekly with international researchers and manufacturers as they seek to constantly improve their test accuracy. Some are experimenting with new methods, for example Abbott’s new lab-based technique for antibody identification, while others are developing kits suitable for home use.
This is a new problem requiring new solutions. They will get progressively better with time, however there is a debate to be had between waiting for a 100% accurate test – if even possible – and the damage that could be done by doing nothing in that period.
The UK Government have set their bar at 98% specificity – the confidence with which a test will correctly identify the presence of antibodies. (See our article on Sensitivity & Specificity)
In response to the current landscape, we have made it our mission to continuously seek out the latest, most accurate and proven tests, to remove the uncertainty and provide reassurance for decision makers.