NEWS1 May 2020

Government starts home testing research

Covid-19 Healthcare News UK

UK – The government has launched a coronavirus home testing programme in England, run by Imperial College London alongside researchers from Ipsos Mori.

Covid testing coronavirus_crop

The aim of the research, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, is to track the rate of infection and understand how many people have been infected and since recovered.

It also aims to identify an antibody test that gives accurate results and is easy to use, as the accuracy of antibody tests is still improving, and public usability of tests has not been studied.

100,000 randomly selected people from across England will be asked to provide nose and throat swabs for the first part of the research programme. This test looks for evidence that someone is currently infected with the virus.  

Researchers will then study different antibody tests to see how accurate and easy to use they are, carrying out the tests on volunteers from Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust who are known to have had the virus already.

Additionally, 300 public volunteers will be given a sample test to do themselves to study its accuracy and whether they understand the guidance on how to use it.

If this is successful, the test will then be sent to up to 10,000 participants, with the sole aim of making sure people can self-administer the test, rather than giving an accurate assessment of antibody levels.

A further stage of the programme will involve up to 5,000 key workers, who will be asked to self-test and have the test administered by a health worker, and results from these tests will be compared with those of blood samples taken from laboratory participants.

If antibody self-testing is found to work during this research, the government said it will extend it to 100,000 people later in the year.

Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial College London, said: “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. 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.”

Kelly Beaver, managing director of public affairs, Ipsos Mori, said: “The Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute is proud to have the opportunity to support the government’s ongoing response to this pandemic, through delivery of this research study, alongside colleagues from Imperial College London. 

“The importance of getting a scientific and robust estimate of the prevalence of the virus, and potentially how many have been infected and recovered since the outbreak began cannot be understated. It is critical in supporting decision making over the months ahead.”