Only a month ago, the UK government promised a rollout of millions of antibody tests that supposed to be “game changers” according to Prime Minister Johnson, but unfortunately, this plan didn’t work. Testing everyone for antibodies was crucial for finally controlling the massive coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
Retailers such as Amazon and Boots supposed to be provided with antibody tests so people can purchase them and detect if they have developed antibodies to the virus, but the 3,5 million Chinese tests were inaccurate and the country is not few steps back in fighting the pandemic.
Oxford Scientific Advisory Panel tested nine different antibody testing kits, and none of them seem to be accurate enough, which means they can’t be released for general population use or show if someone was infected or developed antibodies to coronavirus.
Antibody testing is the most relevant indicator for governments and their decisions on lifting lockdown restrictions, but so far, it’s not working. Although the social distancing measures have thrown a dark veil over the social and economic lives of people, nothing can be changed until an accurate antibody test kit is introduced to the market.
With reliable testing, scientists can detect how efficient the human body is in developing immunity to COVID-19, which can further help in vaccine development and proper public health policy.
Antibody testing failure is not reported only in the UK, but also in Spain and some other European countries that struggle with the dubious quality of the Asian-imported home kits. Similar experiences have also been reported by the U.S. officials as FDA allowed the sale of a high number of suspicious coronavirus antibody tests.
The U.S. FDA got criticized by the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, Eric Topol, for loosening the criteria on serology tests validation, reminding that at these moments we need more oversight, rather than less.
Biotech companies from around the world have been triggered by the high demand, and at the moment there are 280 different antibody tests in development or on the market. Although most of them are coming from China, their government started controlling the exporters of coronavirus antibody tests, especially after the debacle caused by Shenzhen BioeasyBiotechnology that delivered faulty tests to Spain.
Developing an accurate test that will detect only the antibodies for COVID-19 is not an easy task as people carry many other antibodies, due to different respiratory infections caused by similar coronaviruses. The virus responsible for COVID-19 is called Sars-CoV-2, and scientists are still struggling to define its behavior.