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Researchers are using antibody tests developed at Imperial to confirm past COVID-19 infection in NHS staff.

Professor Graham Taylor is part of a team in the Department of Infectious Disease, led by Professors Myra McClure and Richard Tedder, who developed the tests and are now carrying out antibody testing at Imperial College London to assess whether a person has previously been infected with the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.  He was speaking at the Imperial College Academic Science Centre seminar which took place earlier this month.

An antibody test is screening for antibodies in the blood which the body produces to fight infection, like COVID-19. It is believed that people who have been infected and recovered from COVID-19 should not be contagious and hoped that they may be immune to re-infection. These tests look for a component of the immune system called an antibody. These act as ‘record cards’ of any virus the body encounters, enabling the immune system to quickly recognise and destroy the virus upon reinfection.

Professor Taylor explained how the team developed the antibody tests and the different approaches they took to detect antibodies in the blood.

In total more than 20,000 members of staff and patients of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have been screened for antibodies by North West London Pathology with 2000 sera sent to Imperial’s Molecular Diagnostic Unit for further testing. The results will help indicate how many people had COVID-19 and recovered, including those who didn’t have symptoms.