Long Covid diagnostic test could be available in UK within six months, scientists suggest

  • October 21, 2021

A Long COVID diagnostic test could be available within six months, UK scientists have suggested.  The simple blood test works by detecting rogue antibodies in people with long-term symptoms.  Researchers at Imperial College London found “autoantibodies” present in people with Long Covid symptoms but not in people who recovered from the virus fast, or who have not tested positive.

Healthy immune systems create antibodies to fight disease but autoantibodies are created when the body turns on itself and attacks healthy cells.  Long Covid currently affects 962,000 people in the UK, with an estimated 385,000 suffering for over a year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, headaches and muscle pain.

The early research findings are promising, with further research to follow.  “I’m famously optimistic, so I’d hope that within six months we’d have a simple blood test that you could get from your GP,” said Professor Danny Altmann at Imperial College London.

With restrictions easing on 19 JUL 2021, Professor Altmann has warned that there could be another wave of Long Covid as the vaccine prevents serious disease and death; however, does not stop people from contracting the virus.  Women aged 35-69 are most likely to be affected.  “One of the things we know for absolute certain is that long Covid can ensue from any form of infection – asymptomatic, mild, severe – so if we are heading into a phase of 100,000 cases per day in the coming months and we are saying that 10-20% of all infections can result in long Covid, I can see no certainty that we are not brewing those long Covid cases despite having a vaccinated population,” he said.

At present, diagnosis comes down to “my word against yours” between patients and GPs, said Professor Altmann.  The diagnostic test could help sufferers who are yet to receive specialist care.  Professor Altmann’s early research was filmed for BBC’s Panorama, which found that some specialist Long Covid clinics which were set up in England are not being run according to the guidelines.

Ten (10) clinics have patients who had been waiting for over 100 days and four (4) only see patients who were originally hospitalized with Covid.  The Department of Health said:  “The government rapidly provided specialist care for acutely ill Covid-19 patients at the start of the pandemic and we’ve matched that speed and scale in our support for people with long Covid.”

REFERENCE:  News; 12 JUL 2021; Connie Dimsdale

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