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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. We perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests repeatedly, at least every four 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.

COVID desktoprichmond research institute

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.

Symptom tracker

Fever: 27%

27% of people who tested positive by PCR had a temperature over the last 2 months (versus 2% for the people who did not test positive).

Loss of smell and taste: 35%

35% of people who tested positive by PCR experienced a loss of smell or taste over the last 2 months (versus 3% for the people who did not test positive).

Updated on 1st October 2020

Testing for staff, research participants and visitors to the clinical trials began on 19 March 2020, before it was widely available for NHS staff. We are pleased to be among the few UK companies who have pledged to test all their staff for infection with COVID-19. Having successfully fulfilled this goal, we have now expanded testing to the wider public who wish to volunteer. By expanding testing, we aim to help reduce the spread of the virus by gaining valuable insights into its symptomatology and immunity.

Download our Community Testing Information Sheet if you are a member of the local community coming to us for COVID-19 testing.

Two tests are being conducted: the COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

What is being tested?

By using two 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.

The PCR test is currently a gold standard to check for COVID-19 infections. It measures whether the COVID-19 virus is present in a person’s system. At Richmond Research Institute, we are now able to produce PCR test results within just 20 minutes. In addition, all positive cases will be verified by an independent laboratory. This allows us to check for false positive results.

The COVID-19 Rapid Antibody test indicates whether someone has had the virus and is potentially immune. It measures Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM) - antibodies produced by the body as it fights the virus. Rapid Antibody tests can be used to identify those who have immunity. By using the RAPG-COV-019 antibody test kit we can generate results within 10 minutes. This is valuable for health care workers as they may be able to interact with infected patients at a lower risk to their health. We are also using another antibody test where we can measure the levels of antibodies to see how these change over time.

In addition, it is important to act promptly when tests show that a person is PCR-positive but IgM/IgG-negative. These individuals have contracted the virus but have no antibodies to fight off the infection. Most importantly, they need to be isolated, so they do not spread the infection.

In the long term, we believe that an antigen test is needed – similar to those used to detect hepatitis. Antigen tests are specific, fast, and the answer can be given at the point of care. The individual can be notified immediately, and appropriate infection control measures can be taken.

Over the coming weeks, Richmond Research Institute will be testing devices from different manufacturers to study which tests produce fast and accurate results.

COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kit (RAPG-COV-019)

The RAPG-COV-019 kit by Biopanda Reagents detects antibodies our bodies produce in response to viral material. Specifically, it looks for two different antibodies:

  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG) – produced specifically in response to SARS-CoV-2
  • Immunoglobulin M (IgM) – more generically produced during an infection

These can be measured in blood. 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.

To learn more about how the RAPG-COV-019 kit works visit Biopanda Reagents.

Polymerase chain reaction

A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test measures whether the mucus membrane in the nose and throat contains SARS-CoV-2 RNA. These types of viruses insert their RNA into the cells of the host. PCR tests are considered the gold standard to monitor for the presence of the virus. Currently, we do not know whether this means people are contagious after a COVID-19 infection.

Turnaround for PCR testing is 20 minutes. PCR tests require specialist tools and dedicated lab facilities to produce accurate results. 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.

Where do we go from here?

Richmond Research Institute quickly initiated COVID-19 testing for staff, research participants, and visitors to Richmond Pharmacology ahead of rolling out lockdown measures in the UK.

In addition, we launched wide-spread safety measures that included a working-from-home policy, staggered working hours, and the mandatory use of gloves and face masks among our clinical staff. Of a total of 215 members of staff, 30 tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR and 41 had produced antibodies. Of those who tested positive, 5 were symptom-free while 13 reported symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. It is well-known that COVID-19 can be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers1 and therefore it is likely that infection among some of our staff may have been due to contact with people unaware that they carried the virus.

There were no deaths among those who tested positive.

Among those who tested positive by PCR, 27% reported symptoms of fever and 35% said they lost their smell and/or taste. This confirms existing research2 which suggests that individuals experiencing loss of smell and taste should self-isolate.

Due to the stringent safety measures in place and continued monitoring among our staff, only three new positive cases have been recorded among our employees over a twelve week period. This is in line with an overall decline in number of infections seen in the UK4.

We are committed to continuing to collect and analyse test results to understand the long-term immunity using tests allowing us to quantify the levels of the IgM and IgG antibodies over time. It is important to understand if, and how long infected individuals remain immune to the virus. Results from the study will be published on this page on an ongoing basis.

Testing of the public

We are now also testing families with children. Analysing the test results obtained from children is important because they tend have milder symptoms3 of COVID-19 than adults. This could potentially raise questions over the safety of returning children to school early.

Additionally, we are committed to provide testing for other members of the public. As a result, we expect that the number of cases carrying antibodies will increase because people will be more likely to volunteer for testing if they believe they already had COVID-19.

To help local businesses reopen quickly, testing will also be offered to the local community. If this strategy was adopted by a large number of businesses, clusters of infection could be discovered immediately and individuals could be isolated more rapidly.

Download our Community Testing Information Sheet if you are a member of the local community coming to us for COVID-19 testing.

What else are we doing?

Richmond Research Institute is in the process of contributing to the LEOSS project (https://leoss.net/). LEOSS is collecting COVID-19-positive data from hospitalised patients around the world. It aims to provide a register of anonymous patient information to gain a deeper understanding of the clinical course of patients and how the virus spreads.

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

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