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A game-changing blood test that spots 98 per cent of coronavirus cases could identify tens of thousands more victims – and might be available from next month.
This could provide Britain’s economy with a timely boost and speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Studies suggest as many as eight in 10 cases of Covid-19 are so mild that sufferers don’t even notice they’re unwell – meaning they are unaware they could already have immunity to the killer bug.
Up to 29 per cent of current screening tests conducted on carriers produce a incorrect negative result, according to research, but the new test is said to more accurately identify the antibodies thought to be crucial to immunity.
However, the University of Birmingham’s new test – based on studies involving 1,000 NHS workers, is being lauded by its creators as a major step forward.
It seeks out the “correctly folded form of the spike protein” in the virus which binds to cells.
In this way, it can more accurately identify the antibodies produced by the immune system when Covid-19 strikes, it is claimed.
Patients are required to prick their finger at home before sending off dried blood for testing, rather drawing blood directly from the veins in similar screening methods.
Dr Alex Richter, UoB senior lecturer and consultant in Clinical Immunology, said spotting antibodies in people who have been hospitalised with the bug is “quite straightforward”.
However, the doctor, involved in producing the test, said detecting it in those sufferers who display mild symptoms or are asymptomatic is more difficult “in existing protein tests”.
She told the Daily Mail: “In our test, we are using the correctly folded form of the spike protein, which is the protein the virus uses to binds to cells in the first place.
“We are getting 98 per cent sensitivity and that is a game changer for testing in the community and for other countries.”
It comes after Boris Johnson praised the work of UK scientists after they discovered the first drug to stop people dying from coronavirus.
The PM said a major study into steroid dexamethasone was a “remarkable British achievement” following the clinical trials involving 11,500 people.
Breakthrough research has found a common steroid given to coronavirus patients could have saved between 4,000 and 5,000 lives in the UK.
The drug will now be rolled out on the NHS tomorrow