Testing for COVID-19 is crucial to understand who is infected and therefore a risk to others by spreading the infection. We perform tests repeatedly, either weekly or when a participant attends the clinic. By repeating these tests over time, we can establish how long the antibodies take to develop and how long immunity lasts in each person.
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.
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 developing test kits that work quickly and effectively.
Two tests are being conducted: the COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
What is being tested?
The PCR test is the gold standard within the industry. It measures whether the COVID-19 virus is present in a person’s system. The results currently take a minimum of 24 hours and an individual could become infected between taking the test and receiving the results. This delay makes it difficult to control the spread of infection.
The RAPG-COV-019 kit 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. RAPG-COV-019 tests can be used to identify those who have immunity. Results are available 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.
In addition, it is important to analyse tests that 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. They may need to be hospitalised to receive the correct medical care. Most importantly they need to be isolated so they do not spread the infection.
Unfortunately, the current tests do not help to reduce the spread of the infection due to the time taken to process the results. We believe that in the long term 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 a minimum of 24 hours. PCR tests require specialist tools and dedicated lab facilities to produce accurate results. This makes the development of viable quick-tests which scan for antibodies desirable.
Where do we go from here?
Richmond Research Institute quickly initiated COVID-19 testing for staff, research participants, and visitors to Richmond Pharmacology. We are committed to continuing to collect and analyse test results to understand the long-term immunity using tests allowing us to quantify the effects 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.
We are actively sourcing 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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