British digital health company Babylon is offering COVID-19 antibody tests to anyone in the UK for its at cost price.
The FDA-approved tests, which do not have to be administered by a healthcare professional, can be taken at home and sent for analysis in a third-party lab, to determine whether or not a person has been previously infected by the virus.
Users can choose to opt-in to share information such as symptoms, location and test results to aid national research into the virus.
The tests, which cost £69, have been produced by diagnostics company Abbott and are lab-analysed by a fully accredited Eurofins laboratory in the UK.
Research has shown that, unlike less reliable at-home rapid tests, these have 98.5% sensitivity and 99.5% specificity.
WHY IT MATTERS
When ordering the tests, patients can choose to share information about their symptoms, demographics, and testing history with researchers to provide them with invaluable information about the disease.
This is particularly important as much of the research done on COVID-19 patients has been done in hospitals on more serious cases, but little is known about the vast majority who experienced milder symptoms.
Babylon says it is committed to analysing and publishing the aggregated information with explicit consent from testers. It has also offered to share anonymised data with the research community and Public Health England in order to provide insights into the virus and guide public policy, such as planning for future health services and safely easing lockdown policies.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
UK online doctor service Zava has also launched a COVID-19 antibody test kit with a turnaround time of one to two days, which it says is 97.5% effective at detecting the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. The service, which costs £75 and is discounted for key workers, includes a home sampling kit and lab test, with results reviewed by Zava’s GMC-registered doctors if needed.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London are working with UK diagnostics firm Intelligent Fingerprinting to develop a COVID-19 fingerprint test, which can provide results within 10 minutes without the need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
ON THE RECORD
Dr Olivia Morrow, who is helping lead the antibody testing effort at Babylon, said:
“With Babylon’s help, we can gain insight into how often people with only mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all, have developed antibodies and perhaps start to answer important questions about immunity and the spread of the virus. This could help answer questions about which regions are at greater risk for breakouts, how to guide social distancing measures and better understand the natural history of the disease.”