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Belgian firm develops pioneering antibody tests that are ‘100 percent accurate’

ZanTech, a Liege-based firm, said the government has certified the tests that are now in production. The company aims to produce tens of thousands of tests per week to distribute in the country first, before scaling up to three millions to import to other European countries.

The tests identify whether a person has previously been infected with the virus and has since recovered, even if they showed no symptoms.

Results are then provided within 15 minutes.

ZenTech founder and CEO, Jean-Claude Havaux, said: “[The tests’] sensitivity is 100 percent – meaning all patients who have COVID-19 antibodies, we see them with our test.

“We don’t want, and don’t intend for, these tests to be used by just anybody.

“It’s not a pregnancy test. It’s really pretty complicated to carry out and to interpret the results.”

Experts have said the test is an important development toward the easing of lockdowns as it detects who are likely to have gained immunity to the virus.

The breakthrough could mean the UK will finally ramp up testing, something the Government has struggled to do as it fails to find a test that is reliable enough for mass-use.

Britain said it will not use an antibody test that is less than 98 percent accurate.

There are currently two types of coronavirus antibody tests – one designed to be used at home and provides results within minutes, and another test that need to to be posted to a lab for its analysis.

READ MORE: Shock data: UK government is a fifth of the way toward COVID-19 target

Both types of tests required a blood sample from a finger prick. ZenTech’s device is not suitable to be used at home.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says no test under 98 percent accurate is safe for mass-use.

However some experts say that even inexact tests which lack accuracy can be used to evaluate the true scale of the outbreak.

Eleanor Riley, professor of Immunology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Guardian: “Antibody tests – even if they lack some sensitivity – can be used to estimate what proportion of the population has already been exposed to the virus.

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“This is really helpful in telling us whether there is likely to be widespread immunity in the population and thus how likely there is to be a second wave of infections (and how big that wave might be), once the social-distancing measures are relaxed.”

The UK Government is said to be in search for “home grown” tests produced by British companies, after it paid an estimated £16 million for a shipment of tests from China that failed the reliability tests conducted by scientists at Oxford University.

But UK-based firms are struggling to access blood samples of patients who testes positive for the virus to trial their devices on. Essex-based Biosure said there was “a national shortage” of samples.

It is now launched an appeal for blood donations from citizens who were either tested positive for, or were suspected of having, the virus.

A spokesperson told MailOnline: “We have discovered there is no current UK based bio-bank for confirmed positive COVID-19 blood samples.

“We recognise the Government is under immense pressure with this global crisis, so for swift action we need to call to the nation for urgent support.

“We are asking people to fill in an on-line questionnaire so we can build a database of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who would, if needed, be prepared to provide a small sample of their blood.

“People who fit the criteria will be contacted and sent a collection kit though the post, so that a blood sample could be self-collected at home and posted back for inclusion in our validations.”

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