Prof John Newton: It will be months before we know if antibodies protect against Covid-19

22 May 2020, 11:33

By Asher McShane

Coronavirus testing chief Professor John Newton today said that it would take months before scientists would know whether covid-19 antibodies protect people against reinfection.

Prof Newton also said that no decision had been reached yet on plans for so-call “immunity passports” because the science was not there yet.

Talking at the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Professor John Newton also said that the public should not rely on antibody tests bought over the internet.

He also urged caution over the home testing kit announced by high street chain Superdrug yesterday, saying that better tests would be available to the public soon.

Professor John Newton was speaking today at the government's Science and Technology committee
Professor John Newton was speaking today at the government's Science and Technology committee. Picture: PA

He said: "The public need to be aware that those tests are not the same as those we have evaluated and approved for use.

"The laboratory-based tests have a much higher standard of accuracy.

"We wouldn't recommend at the moment that people rely on the tests that are becoming widely available.

"My advice would be to wait until we have better tests which will be available in a similar form very soon, though they are still under evaluation at the moment."

High Street chemist Superdrug announced yesterday that it will be the first retailer to sell a Covid-19 antibody test via its Online Doctor Service.

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The blood test detects antibodies in patients who have been exposed to the virus, even if they never developed symptoms.

The chemist said its test has a sensitivity of 97.5%. This means that it will detect positive antibodies 97.5% of the time. But warned, a small number of previous infections might go undetected.

Superdrug will be offering the tests for sale from Wednesday via their website. The brand said the move comes after their test was found to be "accurate and reliable."

All of the components of the home sampling test kits are CE marked and the test is run by a UKAS-accredited laboratory.

The Covid-19 Antibody Blood Test costs £69 at Superdrug.