According to a new study, it is possible that no one has experienced mild symptoms in a test to see if they were infected with a coronavirus.
Researchers at Oxford University have tested more than 900 healthcare workers with antibodies and found that a significant number have returned negative, even among those who are likely to have Covid-19 contracts. discovered.
The findings raise new questions about the accuracy of the tests and how they can be used to help the UK avoid another lockdown.
The study reports that one-third of people who test negative for antibodies have previously reported a loss of taste and smell. This is a common symptom in patients with coronavirus. Of those tested, 387 reported slightly below the threshold required for positive results, but reported no symptoms.
One of the authors, Dr. Tim Walker, told The Telegraph that this is a positive result, but suggests that the threshold is too high.
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“Below the cutoff, we see an increasing proportion of people reporting odors and loss of taste, which suggests that the test threshold lacks people with mild illness.” I am.
“Of course, many people will have no symptoms at all and will have antibodies.”
Antibody tests can detect signs of past infections in the blood. It is created only when the body is exposed to the virus.
They should be able to find out if anyone had Covid-19 at any time of their life, as opposed to other tests that just check if the patient currently has the virus.
Four types of tests are currently used in the UK, all of which have been given to participants in the Oxford study.
The results suggest that tests may be on average 11% less accurate than currently thought. This is partly because it was developed using samples from patients with severe cases.
Dr. Walker says that the antibody test threshold is set high to prevent people who did not have the antibody from accidentally knowing that they have it, giving a false sense of security. Said. This inevitably means that some people with antibodies will be overlooked, he added.
Scientists are now seeking to reassess the threshold between negative and positive outcomes. Experts are still unclear how effective antibodies are in preventing people from being twice infected with coronavirus, or how long this immunity lasts.
But if this can be proven in the future, people will be given “immune passports” and will be able to continue their daily lives without the risk of infection.
If the positive test cutoff remains high, experts mean that thousands of people who actually have antibodies can be forced back into lockdown when they don’t need to. It warns that there is a possibility.
Last month, Birmingham researchers found that antibody tests only went into effect three to four weeks after someone had been infected and became less accurate over time.
“It wasn’t enough,” said Professor Jon Deeks, then a medical testing specialist at the University of Birmingham. Using them at the wrong time will not work. “
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