Coronavirus update live: Latest news as UK admits it doesn’t know when peak will hit
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Coronavirus update live: Latest news as UK admits it doesn’t know when peak will hit

‘Lack of blood samples’ hampering efforts to find antibody test

A lack of blood samples from patients who have had Covid-19 is hampering efforts to validate antibody tests, experts have said.

Public Health England (PHE) currently only has a small number of positive blood samples for screening antibody tests to see whether they work, while the Department of Health is trying to create a blood bank.

Part of the issue, PHE said, is that it takes time for an immune response to develop and therefore the blood from those who have had the coronavirus is only just reaching the maturity needed for use in antibody tests.

However, some private labs have said their efforts to validate tests are being hampered by PHE not sharing its blood samples. 

Professor Sir John Bell, from Oxford University, has said the university team has struggled to get samples from the organisation.

In private email correspondence, Sir John said the team “could not get” samples from PHE, adding: “We are collecting ours one convalescent patient at a time.

“Now have 15, soon will have more than 30.”

In a statement, Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, said: “The government wants as many labs as possible to support the scaling up of the UK’s testing capacity and any commercial companies that can help should contact the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

“PHE has only a very small number of positive blood samples.”

She added: “It takes time for an immune response to develop; for most people infected in the UK, this will have been in the past six weeks and so their blood is only now reaching maturity to be used in this capacity.

“A blood bank will be developed that companies can use to validate their technology.”

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