An antibody testing programme has begun in Dorset to see if people have had coronavirus, starting with healthcare staff but the plan is to roll it out more widely.
A specialist laboratory at Poole Hospital is providing the antibody tests – which are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if a person has previously had the virus.
Testing is set to be offered to people across Dorset
The antibody tests are currently being prioritised for NHS staff, but as testing laboratory capacity increases, it is set to be offered to people across Dorset.
There is a warning that even if someone does test positive for the antibodies that there’s no guarantee they won’t get the virus again. The laboratory advises:
“The test works by taking a blood sample and testing for the presence of antibodies. There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have been proven to have had the virus and to have produced antibodies are immune. If you receive a positive antibody result it does not mean that you’re immune, or that you cannot pass on the virus to others. It also does not mean that you can ignore social distancing measures.”
This means that even if someone tests positive to antibodies it’s still important that they carry out social distancing, practice good hygiene by regularly washing their hands and limit contact with people outside of their household.
However the antibody testing programme will still be valuable because it’ll provide information on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and this will help scientists understand how the disease spreads. It will work alongside the swab testing programme, which confirms whether or not someone currently has the virus.
Debbie Fleming, Joint Chief Executive, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and chair of the pan-Dorset testing cell, said:
“The antibody testing programme that has been introduced so swiftly is another great example of partners across the healthcare system in Dorset working well together. We are really grateful to all our teams who worked so hard to make this possible.
“Whilst our priority at the moment is to offer antibody testing for all healthcare staff, we are planning to roll this out more widely at the earliest opportunity”.