A significant part of the solution to stopping the spread of the virus and countering society’s wider Covid fatigue is of course vaccination, and it is testament to research and development efforts that several vaccines are now in clinical use.
A similarly important link in the chain to my mind, and a further building block in meaningfully bolstering public confidence, is testing for antibodies that detect an immune response.
Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) – clinically-validated tests that do not require a laboratory for processing – can be extremely useful in this respect, working on the same principle as an everyday pregnancy test. They are used in two different scenarios – testing for active infection (antigen test) and testing for immune response (antibody test). Both have a significant role to play in response to Covid-19.
At Scottish Health Innovations, we believe that the Coronex lateral flow antibody test – developed and proven in Scotland with our involvement – addresses some fundamental questions in the global response to the pandemic.
The Coronex test, which brings together expertise from across NHS Scotland and the biotech sector, has been demonstrated to detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with high accuracy and can be adapted rapidly to detect antibodies to new mutations. It has re-engineered and revolutionised lateral flow technology, offering an inexpensive and efficient solution that can be used in a community, workplace, or home setting.
Essentially, such tests check for antibodies to the virus. They are not used for virus diagnosis but rather identifying an immune response.
By helping monitor antibody response to infection and vaccination, they can in turn inform the need for repeat immunisation over the coming months and years.
As society attempts to move out of lockdown, the use of reliable antibody tests also represents a significant stepping stone to restoring freedom of movement.
Such tests could have a major role to play in the development of a new system based on the potential rollout of Covid immunity ‘passports’, already mooted by several countries including Israel, Spain, Belgium and Denmark.
Whilst still under much debate, if given the go-ahead, Government-approved Covid passport documents would certify if the holder had mounted a positive immune response to the virus.
Passport-holders could then potentially be released safely from public health restrictions – a significant part of the transition to our new normality.
Aiding that transition, is an increase in the proportion of the population that has presumed immunity to Covid-19 because of vaccination roll out, alongside better and more widespread testing for immunity.
Regardless of policy decisions made by individual countries, reliable antibody testing will be a lynchpin of trustworthy certification.
While the passport debate continues, the requirement for reliable, simple antibody testing remains essential.
Graham Watson, Executive Chairman of Scottish Health Innovations