Coronavirus: New 'fast and accurate' antibody test developed

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image captionA healthcare professional in Italy shows a test tube with blood for a serological test that can identify who has contracted Covid-19 and has produced antibodies.

A new "fast and accurate" coronavirus antibody test has been developed by scientists in Scotland and Switzerland.

Quotien said each serological screening machine has capacity for up to 3,000 tests a day and produces results in 35 minutes with 99.8% accuracy.

The blood-screening firm is now keen to hold talks with UK ministers amid interest from Europe for the machines.

The Scottish government said it will explore "all options" as they become available.

Quotient said the test can spot whether a person has developed antibodies to Covid-19.

Understanding immunity could help ease lockdown if it is clear who is not at risk of catching or spreading the virus.

'Outstanding performance'

Chief executive Franz Walt was managing director of the Singapore-based Roche Laboratory which developed the first diagnostic test for Sars in 2003.

He said: "We are truly proud to have developed such a fast and accurate test. This is an outstanding performance by our teams in both Edinburgh and Switzerland.

"We now want to make sure that we can help as many people as possible as quickly as possible. We have strong roots in the UK and want to speak to ministers there so MosaiQ can be used in the amazing national effort to tackle coronavirus and relaunch the economy.

"We realise ministers and the NHS are incredibly busy but are keen to talk given the strong interest from across Europe in the product."

European regulatory approval

Quotient said it has 12 screening machines available which can process up to 36,000 tests a day or 252,000 a week.

A further 20 are expected to be ready by the end of the year.

The firm's headquarters are in Eysins, Nyon, but its Scottish research division is based in Penicuik, Midlothian. It also has a corporate office in Edinburgh.

While the UK government says it has laboratory capability to test for coronavirus immunity, it is currently being used for survey testing of existing blood samples and the capacity is not known.

It is also attempting to develop home testing kits, rather than requiring analysis in laboratories, but so far these have proved unreliable.

On Friday, Quotient received European regulatory approval for the MosaiQ serological screening machines.

It claims they have 100% sensitivity and 99.8% specificity, meaning there is a low chance of a misread or "false positive".

'Rigorous evaluation'

Ed Farrell, chief operating officer at the Edinburgh office, said: "We're incredibly proud of all our work here in Scotland and Switzerland.

"We've got such a rich history here and we hope we can now make a difference at this challenging time."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Health Protection Scotland, with key partners, explore all options around new antibody tests as they become available on the market.

"The Scottish government is working closely with the UK government to ensure that everyone is able to access new antibody tests when they become available.

"It is essential that any new tests are reliable, and time is needed to undertake rigorous evaluation so that there is confidence that tests are accurate."

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