PHE have approved a coronavirus antibody testing kit.
It has been said that the new testing kit could be the breakthrough that is key to easing lockdown restrictions in the UK.
In comparison, the antigen virus test, which has been available to apply for on the gov.uk website for some time, detects whether a person has the virus.
The antigen test is administered through swabbing.
The antigen test detects the presence of an antigen and not antibodies; this type of test is also used to diagnose HIV and malaria as well as influenza.
The antibody test detects whether a person has had the virus and since recovered.
The test is a finger prick device that takes a blood sample to then be checked for the existence of coronavirus antibodies.
Antibodies in the blood would show that the body has had and beaten the virus and thus gained some immunity to it.
The antibody test is also known as a ‘serological test’.
Roche, the Swiss company who have developed the antibody test have said it is ready to provide hundreds of thousands of lab-based tests to the NHS weekly.
The accuracy of the test was given approval at PHE’s Colindale facility.
The test is required to be administered by a health professional where blood serums are obtained, reagents added, to then be examined in machines called ‘cobas e analysers’.
The cobas e analyser machines are already installed in NHS labs across the UK.
The antibody test returns a faster result than the currently used antigen swab test the UK Government uses.
Previously, the government had tried to roll out antibody tests, but Oxford University trials found the Chinese finger prick tests to be inaccurate.
This was a setback as the tests were looked upon as being the key to a more efficient exit from lockdown restrictions.
NHS staff will be tested using the new antibody test to see if they have previously been infected with Covid-19 and are, in theory, safe to return to work.
Professor Sharon Peacock, the director of the national infection service at Public Health England, said:
“Tests are being ordered across Europe and elsewhere and purchased in South-East Asia. This is widespread practice. We are not alone in doing this.”