(with kind permission)
SOM offers these broad principles to deal with issues relating to Covid-19 testing. These are intended to be pragmatic and are aimed at reinforcing the Government’s testing strategy at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878121/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-strategy.pdf . We note that:
“Our experts are clear that an unreliable test is worse than no test. We need to be led by the evidence. Hence, the Chief Medical Officer discourages in the strongest terms organisations from buying their own unvalidated antibody tests”.
We support and are pleased to see FOM’s statement on testing at
There are no CE-marked tests for home use that can be bought yet, e.g. from pharmacies.
Note: If you have symptoms you must self-isolate.
Currently there are two tests in use. The antigen test, a PCR lab test, looks directly for the virus RNA when someone is symptomatic. There is also a newer antibody test, which looks for evidence that the body has been exposed and reacted to the virus.
The antigen PCR test is laboratory intensive, 24-48-hour turnaround, and has about 70-75% sensitivity (reliability for identifying the virus antigen) needing competent swabbing. Performing the test is a potentially high-risk procedure for the clinician doing it.
The newer antibody test coming online now is a blood sample (finger prick) applied to a reagent strip with immediate result and is being manufactured in high volume. A person must have symptoms for a least two weeks. This device is expected to be suitable for wider community use.
The antibody device measures IgM (immediate immune response) and IgG (longer term response) to the virus. Devices are currently being tested for sensitivity by Public Health England (the ability of the test to identify those with the disease). Repeat testing may be required in a newly sick person.
The use of the antibody test may include: -
It is expected the antibody test will begin to be available mid-April. The following is noted:
There is currently no formal advice for management of asymptomatic staff who test positive. The pragmatic solution would be advise to self-isolate for seven days, and then retest if no symptoms have arisen over this time. If symptoms arise, they should follow PHE advice for symptomatic staff. This may be clarified by PHE.