Testing for COVID-19 antibodies has started in North Wales.
Blood Sciences staff across North Wales have begun taking blood tests of NHS Staff and key workers as part of a national programme to improve our understanding of the virus.
Antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to infections. The tests can be used to establish whether a person has developed antibodies, having been infected with COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
A limited capacity of tests are being made available, with staff groups prioritised for testing following Welsh Government guidance.
Initially, tests will be offered to some teaching staff from all six North Wales local authorities. Selected teaching staff across North Wales will be contacted by the local authority which employees them to arrange testing.
Capacity is also available for NHS staff working in North Wales. Staff will be invited to participate as part of a phased rollout, depending on available capacity.
Frontline staff with regular contact with patients who have, or are suspected of having COVID-19, will initially be prioritised.
Current capacity allows for around 500 tests to be carried out in North Wales every day.
To help manage demand and resources, three dedicated phlebotomy units have opened at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Enfys Llandudno, and Wrexham Maelor Hospital. The units a will operate by invitation only, and will not be offering a drop-in service.
Rachael Surridge, Blood Sciences Services Manager, said: “A lot of research is still needed to fully understand COVID-19, how it affects people, and how we can best protect ourselves from it.
“By taking part in a national programme of antibody testing, we are able to play our part in better understanding how the virus works. This research will potentially help us to understand whether or not people who have had it will be protected from it in future, and for how long.
“By recording who has developed antibodies, whether they continue to have those antibodies over a period of time, and if they have had or go on to develop COVID-19 symptoms, we can play our part to continue to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19.”
Individual requests for tests are not currently being taken by Blood Services.
Current guidance suggests antibodies may take time to be produced after infection with COVID-19 coronavirus. It is also unknown how long antibodies will be detectable in blood after infection, and a small proportion of people will not produce antibodies following infection.
Antibody tests for COVID-19 are still very new, and we do not fully understand the limitations in relation to the disease COVID-19. By taking blood samples to investigate antibody status we hope to understand the use of the antibody tests better.
It is important to remember that a positive test does not confirm immunity and it is possible that you could be infected by COVID-19 again.
A negative result could either mean that you haven’t been exposed or you have been tested in the time period before an antibody response could be generated by your body. It could take more than two weeks to have an antibody response after COVID-19 exposure.