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Imperial College London to lead major coronavirus home testing programme

Aims to track the progress of the infection across the UK


A major home testing programme for the coronavirus, which is to be led by Imperial College London, will soon be underway across the UK.

The programme aims to track the progress of the infection across the UK, and help to improve understanding of how many people are currently infected. It will also shed light on how many people have been infected and recovered from the coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year.

It will be led by a team of Imperial College scientists, clinicians and researchers in partnership with colleagues at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and IpsosMori, with the work having been commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The programme is seen as a significant step towards lifting the nationwide lockdown currently in place, as it will clarify the extent of the spread of the virus and provide an accurate number of those who have contracted it.

In the first part of the programme, dubbed REACT-1, 10,000 randomly selected individuals across England will be invited to provide nose and throat swabs which will be tested for the virus.

The second part of the programme, REACT-2, will assess a range of antibody tests, including testing their accuracy and ease of use at home. Antibody tests will provide authorities with a clearer picture of how far the infection has spread, what proportion of the population has been infected and will also be able to identify individuals who may have some immunity to the virus.

The first antibody tests will be used on volunteers from the Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust who are known to have had the virus and recovered. A group of 300 members of the public will also be given a sample test to self-administer. Researchers will then use the results of these tests to assess the usefulness of antibody testing, and also whether people fully understand the guidance on how to use them.

The test will then be given to a larger amount of up to 10,000 people, with a further stage to involve up to 5,000 key workers, who will both self-test and have the test administered by a health professional.

The results from the antibody tests will be compared to the ‘gold-standard’ blood sample testing being undertaken in labs. All in all, if antibody self-testing is found to have a high degree of accuracy, acceptability and usability, it will be scaled-up for use in 100,000 people later this year.

“Community testing is a vital next step in ongoing efforts to mitigate the pandemic, but to be successful this must be based on robust scientific evidence,” said Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial College London,

“Through this important programme we will gather the critical knowledge base necessary to underpin community testing programmes and facilitate a greater understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the UK,” he added.

Article by

1st May 2020

From: Research



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