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British firm says antibody test is being validated

Thu, 26th Mar 2020 12:33

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Prototypes of a coronavirus
antibody test which could be a game-changer in the fight against
the pandemic are being assessed and are ready to be optimised,
the developer of the technology said on Thursday.

Antibody tests are designed to establish whether people have
previously been infected, as opposed to antigen tests which show
if someone actually has the COVID-19 disease caused by the
virus.

Health technology firm Mologic said assessment and
validation of its COVID-19 diagnostic test had begun this week
at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and St Georges
hospital, and that global partners would also examine the
prototypes.

"Completion of the first prototypes is a significant step in
Mologic's development of a rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19
and we are proud of our team's achievement in reaching this
point so quickly, while maintaining the most rigorous
standards," said Paul Davis, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific
Officer at Mologic.

"Diagnostics are a critical weapon in the fight against this
pandemic and, once ready, this test will enable affordable, more
accurate and earlier diagnosis of infection, limiting the spread
of the disease."

Britain has bought 3.5 million antibody testing kits from
different suppliers, and is currently making sure they work
before distributing them.

A health official told lawmakers on Wednesday that such test
kits would be available within days to be sent to households,
perhaps via Amazon, saying that an unnamed prototype was being
validated in Oxford this week.

But the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty later dampened
expectations that the tests would be available on the internet
next week, saying that the only thing worse than no test was a
bad test.

Asked why Britain bought 3.5 million tests which might not
work, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "If we are
able to find an antibody test which works that could be a
game-changer."

"For that reason you will understand that government is
doing everything that it can to seek to find a test which
works," he added.

Mologic, which is based near Bedford, north of London, said
that after assessment in Britain, the prototypes would be
shipped to validation partners in China, the United States,
Malaysia, Spain, Brazil and Senegal.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill, additional
reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison)

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