Coronavirus antibodies: Are you safe from COVID-19 if you have antibodies?
As of March 30, there have been 22,141 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. According to official figures, 1,408 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of testing to all nations in the global effort to tackle coronavirus.
The UK is currently looking to step-up its coronavirus testing, especially for frontline NHS staff and other essential workers.
Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said at a coronavirus daily briefing this week: “Increasing our testing capacity is absolutely crucial in our response to and our fight against coronavirus.
“This is a particular priority for those who work in the health and social care sector and are working so hard to keep us all safe.”
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Are you safe from COVID-19 if you have antibodies?
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system, which neutralise pathogens in the body.
People who have caught coronavirus and recovered will likely have produced antibodies to fight off another infection.
Therefore experts believe once a person has caught coronavirus and developed antibodies, it is highly unlikely that person will be reinfected.
However, what is not clear is just how long this immunity will last for.
Frances Lund, professor and chair of the department of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told NBC News: “It is reasonable to predict we will have some immunity.
“To say you will have lifelong immunity? We just don’t know yet.
“But I think it’s a reasonable conclusion that you will have immunity for the rest of this season.”
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What is an antibody test?
The UK is currently testing using an antigen test, which detects viral proteins in the blood.
Antigen testing is used to discover whether someone is currently infected with coronavirus.
However, an antibody test will be able to determine whether someone has already had the infection and recovered.
Antibody testing would be particularly useful for frontline NHS staff, who could return to work if tests show they have immunity and will be unlikely to pass it on to other staff and patients.
The UK has purchased 3.5 million antibody tests, which are intended to be rolled out in the wider community in the future.
But before the tests can be accessed by the wider public, they must be vetted for their accuracy.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said last week the “one thing that is worse than no test is a bad test.”
Although there is a huge demand for antibody testing now, it appears there will be a wait of many weeks, or even months, before these tests are readily available for everyone.
If the tests are approved for use, key workers will also get priority access.
Professor Whitty added: “I do not think – and I want to be clear – that this is something we’ll suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.”
Once the tests have been approved, it is believed they will be available to purchase from online retailers such as Amazon, or in-store in places like Boots.
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