A group of medical experts have expressed concerns over a COVID-19 anti-body test for health and social care staff.
The government announced last month it had bought 10 million antibody test and asked NHS Trust and care homes to make them available to staff in England but scientists in the BMJ have argued the tests have lacked “proper assessment”.
In their letter, the 14 scientists say a positive antibody test did not prove immunity and the test offered “no benefit to hospital and care staff.
The academics further argue that antibody results do not change PPE requirements, could place an unnecessary burden on the NHS and added there was little evidence of how well they work for those at highest risk, including the elderly and ethnic minorities.
They argue for an alternative approach to help monitor the spread of the virus.
The government’s advisor on antibiody tests, Professor John Bell, argued the academics had underestimated their value, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We do need to know how many people out there have been infected and the only way to do this is antibody testing.”
Professor Bell agreed, however, that there was not enough evidence to prove that a positive test provided immunity.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are offering antibody tests to NHS and care staff in England, with patients and care residents eligible at their clinician’s request. And we are also using antibody tests to support research studies.
“Antibody testing will improve our understanding of how coronavirus is spreading across the country, which will be vital for future decisions about controlling the virus.”