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Case/Article Review 2
The government delayed the findings of a Public Health England study that questioned the accuracy of a covid antibody test as it was about to announce that it had spent £75m (€84.3m; $99.4m) on buying one million of those tests. If the test is used in the community as intended, and assuming that 10% of recipients have previously been infected, around one in five positive AbC-19 tests would be a false positive, the findings suggest.
The study findings contrast with those of an earlier study - not yet peer reviewed, which was funded by some of the consortium developing and producing the test—that suggested that the test gave no false positive results. Clinicians stated, “Apart from limited surveillance to estimate the proportion of a population that has been infected, widespread use of this assay in any other role could risk considerable harm.”
Emails show a discussion between PHE and the Department of Health and Social Care on how to handle an announcement by the health minister James Bethell that the government had bought £75m worth of tests from Abingdon Health.
PHE staff warned of “significant risks” in not publishing the PHE evaluation showing the low accuracy of the tests and asked whether holding back the results had been agreed by ministers.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that the one million tests it had bought were not intended for “widespread public use.”
The findings of the BMJ study suggest that the test can deliver a sufficient degree of accuracy for surveillance studies of the population, but laboratory confirmation of positive results is likely to be needed if these tests are to be used to provide evidence of protection from the virus.
Outline the main issues raised.
(Reference Adapted from: https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4353)