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COVID-19 Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is crucial to understand who is infected and therefore a risk to others by spreading the infection.

Number of people tested

4,395

4,395 people were tested between 1 to 205 times

384 staff
3,279 Volunteers

Number of Tests

31,379

PCR Tests

12,327

Antibody Tests

View all current up to date test results

We perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and microscopic holographic imaging tests repeatedly, at least every two days for staff or when a visitor attends the clinic. We have also continued to test for antibodies. By repeating these tests over time, we can establish how long the antibodies take to develop and how long immunity may last in each person.

This page provides a summary of our COVID-19 testing results, further details can be accessed by using the buttons shown below.

COVID-19 Test Results

PCR Test results

% Staff Positive Test Results

Staff | Average Age: 34 Years

13,268 Negative
92 Positive (58 individuals, some testing positive multiple times)
Number of cases testing positive for the first time

Demographics

54%
Female
47%
Male

Visitors & Volunteers | Average Age: 41 Years

9,111 Negative
65 Positive (58 individuals, some testing positive multiple times)
Number of cases testing positive for the first time

Demographics

32%
Female
68%
Male

Antibody Test results

Staff | Average Age: 34 Years

Number of cases testing positive for the first time
From week 26 antibody test frequency reduced

Visitors & Volunteers | Average Age: 41 Years

254 IgG Positive only
33 IgM Positive only
181 IgM Positive and IgG Positive
3266 Negative
Number of cases testing positive for the first time

Antibody levels over time

For each individual where their antibody levels have been measured more than once their series of results (dots) over time are connected by a coloured line. There is a clear decline in antibody levels overtime. The rate of decline suggests that after four months post infection detectable levels of antibodies are likely to be low.

One individual (purple line) shows a significant change at 171 days with detectable antibodies appearing for the first time, this is probably due to reinfection as 5 months after testing positive for COVID-19 by PCR for the first time, and subsequent negative PCR test results, the individual tested positive again by PCR. A second individual (light purple line) is showing detectable antibody levels for the first time at over 285 days since their first positive PCR test, this may also be due to reinfection. The level of antibodies for both individuals peaked around 4.5 and is now on the decline.

The graphs above show that the number of weekly tests has decreased in recent weeks. This is due to Richmond Research Institute's ongoing commitment to ensure staff safety by increasing home working measures... Read more

Furthermore, travel restrictions imposed by the government mean that fewer volunteers were able to access the unit for testing. As these restrictions continue to be reviewed and will likely be loosened over the coming weeks, we aim to boost testing for COVID-19 again shortly.

Summary of Results

The UK COVID-19 daily case rate has been fluctuating over the past few weeks, now at around 34,460 new cases per day, which is an increase of approximately 4,000 more per day than a week ago. Case rates still remain highest in the 20 – 29-year-old age range, and the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant is still the most prevalent accounting for 90% of cases as reported by Public Health England. The delta variant is sixty percent more infectious than the alpha variant. Fortunately, a new PHE study has shown that 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the delta variant, emphasizing on the importance of being fully vaccinated. COVID-19 hospital admissions remain steady with now the daily rate at 836. Total UK COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 135,000, with the current daily death rate at 166, which is a decrease of 35 from last week. Over the past 6 weeks eight new cases among staff have been recorded after a 22-week period of no cases among staff. We have also detected six new cases among visitors over the past 6 weeks, after an 18-week period of no cases of positive visitors.

The graphs above show that since March 2020 out of 285 members of staff at the clinical trials unit, 92 tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR and 184 have tested positive for antibodies. The majority of staff have now been vaccinated and as expected we are seeing an increase in staff testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

In addition to the Abbot CMIA test being used to measure levels of antibodies against the virus nucleocapsid we have introduced the Roche Elecsys® Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S assay which detects antibodies against the virus spike protein. This change was made because the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines generate antibodies to the spike protein and we want to be able to detect both natural and vaccine generated immunity. Our latest publication shows that individuals who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 previously develop higher antibody levels following vaccination, with either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, in comparison to naive individuals who have not been infected with SARS-CoV-2 prior to vaccination13. Watch the animation summarising these findings. For more information about this clinical trial, registered at ClinicalTrials.gov visit: (NCT04404062). This concurs with studies of healthcare workers at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, where individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 developed peak antibody levels 140-fold higher than individuals with no previous infection following vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine11,12.  

We have detected two possible cases of reinfection. In one case, five months after testing positive for COVID-19 by PCR for the first time, and subsequent negative PCR test results, the individual has tested positive again by PCR. Of note is the relatively high level of antibodies detected for this individual 19 days post their recent positive PCR test, whereas after their first positive PCR test they did not develop detectable antibody levels. Similarly, the second case also did not develop antibodies following their first positive PCR test, however, nine months later they have developed antibodies following a new positive PCR test. In both cases their antibody levels have peaked and are on the decline, as shown in the Antibody levels over time chart on this webpage. Worldwide cases of reinfections are being reported with increasing frequency although are currently considered rare8,9,10.

Our recent publication ‘Why the SARS-CoV-2 antibody test results may be misleading: insights from a longitudinal analysis of COVID-19’ shows our results align with the study led by Imperial College reporting antibodies levels decline significantly over four months post infection4,5,6,7.

Updated on 23rd September 2021

Overview of the COVID-19 tests

Since the pandemic began we have used five different tests, including: a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, a COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test, a Chemiluminescent Microparticle Immunoassay (CMIA) test, an electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECLIA)  and a microscopic holographic imaging and artificial intelligence (AI) software technology.

By using different tests, we can determine whether a person is currently infected with the COVID-19 virus or if they previously had the virus. This is important because many people may not develop any symptoms after becoming infected and thus may not be aware that they are spreading the virus.

View more info about each test using the plus symbols below:

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

The PCR test is currently a gold standard to check for COVID-19 infections. It measures whether SARS-CoV-2 genetic material is present in a person’s system. At Richmond Research Institute, we take throat swab samples and can produce PCR test results within just 20 minutes.

We are using the Menarini Fast Point-of-care RT-PCR test. For positive cases, we also send a sample to be verified by an independent laboratory. This allows us to check for false positive results.

Rapid Antibody Test

The COVID-19 Rapid Antibody test, known as the RAPG-COV-019 kit by Biopanda, indicates whether someone has had the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is potentially immune. It measures Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM) - antibodies produced by the body as it fights the virus.

Usually, it takes five to 10 days for these antibodies to become measurable in blood. Over time, IgM levels will drop, while IgG levels will increase and peak at around 30 days. This allows us to measure if people had a corona virus infection. The challenge with these tests is that they are not sensitive or specific; therefore, another corona virus infection may cause a positive test result.

By using the RAPG-COV-019 antibody test kit on finger prick blood samples we can generate results within 10 minutes.

Chemiluminescent Microparticle Immunoassay (CMIA)

The Abbott Laboratories chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay (CMIA) works by binding to SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies in a blood sample. Upon binding to IgG, a luminescent signal is generated, which can be measured and is directly proportional to the concentration of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies.

This test detects antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein. With the introduction of vaccination we have introduced another test which detects antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to run in parallel with the CMIA test. We made this change because the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines generate antibodies to the spike protein and we want to be able to detect both natural and vaccine generated immunity.  

Richmond Research Institute is continuously evaluating new test methods that produce fast and accurate results.


Microscopic Holographic Imaging

The Virolens system was developed in response to surging demand for rapid COVID-19 screening devices. It is a microscopic holographic imaging and AI software technology. The Virolens system works by using a digital camera that is attached to a microscope to analyse saliva samples. The data obtained from a sample is then run through a computer system that is trained by AI to identify the unique pattern of the virus from other cells. A result is available in only 20 seconds.

Electrochemiluminescence Immunoassay (ECLIA)

The Roche Elecsys® Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S assay is an electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECLIA) for the quantitative determination of antibodies (including IgG) to the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein in human blood samples.

Continuous Development

We continue to actively source new point of care tests which are simple, fast, and can be administered frequently. The ability to identify infectious individuals quickly is essential to ensure normality is restored.

Study Background

Working with our partner organisation, Richmond Pharmacology Limited (RPL), the initial emphasis of our COVID-19 response was on staff, clinical trial volunteers, and visitor safety.

At RPL’s London Bridge clinical trial facility which we use for our studies, RPL acted quickly and responsibly to mitigate the risks, implementing strict entry control measures for access to the research unit, evaluating key indicators such as symptom scores, body temperature, travel history, and contact tracing for anyone entering the building. The wearing of masks inside the research unit is mandatory and the number of people on site is limited to enable social distancing.

The testing regime is key as it is well-known that COVID-19 can be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers
1

References:

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  2. The Lancet: Peer Reviewed Journal
  3. JAMA Network: Open Access Medical Journal
  4. Covid.joinzoe: COVID Symptom Study
  5. GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK
  6. COVID-19 Surveillance Report
  7. Why the SARS-CoV-2 antibody test results may be misleading: insights from a longitudinal analysis of COVID-19
  8. Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2: Implications for Vaccines
  9. SARS-CoV-2 reinfection and implications for vaccine development
  10. COVID reinfections are unusual — but could still help the virus to spread
  11. Antibody response to first BNT162b2 dose in previously SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals
  12. Effect of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection on humoral and T-cell responses to single-dose BNT162b2 vaccine
  13. Can a second booster dose be delayed in patients who have had COVID-19?
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