A ‘game-changing’ new test that spots 98% of coronavirus cases could help spot thousands more patients, including those without symptoms.
Studies have claimed that up to eight in ten people have such mild symptoms that they will barely realise they are sick.
Fears have been sparked that existing tests often come back inaccurate for those who are not noticeably ill, with up to 29% of tests performed on carriers returning with a negative result.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham say they could have found a new blood test that will identify ‘hidden’ victims – potentially a huge step in the UK’s battle against the pandemic.
The test, which has been trialled on 1,000 NHS workers, works by looking for antibodies produced by the immune system when coronavirus invades cells using its surface ‘spikes’, report says.
Alex Richter, of the Institute of Immunology at Birmingham, said those who have milder or asymptomatic illnesses may have a weaker response to existing protein tests.
‘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.’
Concerns have been raised in the past that ‘finger-prick’ tests may not be as accurate as blood samples taken directly from the veins. However, Dr Richter said both methods worked equally as well with the new test.
Patients could likely be asked to prick their finger at home and send off the dried blood spot to a laboratory, she said. It comes as scientists make a ‘major breakthrough’ with a cheap steroid being found to reduce Covid-10 deaths.
The drug Dexamethasone reduced mortality rates by a third among people put on ventilators, the government said on Tuesday.