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Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt slams Britain’s lacklustre coronavirus testing policy

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced the government has purchased 3.5million antibody tests that will show if people have had the coronavirus.

At the daily press conference Mr Hancock also confirmed a new testing facility had opened in Milton Keynes today.

He said: ‘We’ve now bought 3.5million antibody tests, that will allow people to see whether they have had have the virus and are immune to it, and then can get back to work.

Mr Hancock said the government is ‘ramping up’ testing, amid criticism from former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that the country had lost track of the coronavirus crisis because of its testing policy.

He added: ‘Our new testing facility in Milton Keynes opens today and we therefore we are ramping up of the testing numbers.’ 

A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center, holds a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in their car in Seattle

A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station, set up by the University of Washington Medical Center, holds a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in their car in Seattle

Health Secretary Matt Hancock answering questions from the media via a video link during the media briefing in Downing Street this evening

Health Secretary Matt Hancock answering questions from the media via a video link during the media briefing in Downing Street this evening

It comes just hours after Mr Hunt questioned the UK’s policy to only test patients in hospital, asking: ‘How can we possibly suppress the virus if we don’t where it is?’ 

Ex-Tory leader Sir William Hague also called for more testing, saying in a comment piece for The Telegraph that a more rigorous swabbing strategy was ‘the route back to a free society from coronavirus’.

The UK has repeatedly been slammed for its lacklustre approach to testing people for the virus, which has infected almost 400,000 people worldwide. 

In Britain routine tests are only given to people so ill they have to go into hospital, or those who are already on wards – even NHS staff don’t get tested. 

Last night it was revealed the army had been sent to seize testing machines from private labs and universities in a desperate attempt to get NHS medics tested. 

Without knowing if they have the virus, health workers face going into isolation for up to two weeks if they show symptoms of the virus – tests could release them early.

Only 5,000 patients are tested for the deadly virus each day in the UK – despite the Government promising it would ramp up its daily capacity to 25,000.

This means the official tally of coronavirus patients (6,650) is much lower than the reality, with the true size of the outbreak currently being hidden. 

Mr Hunt told the House of Commons Britain currently had around 300,000 cases – a scientific estimate based on 1,000 cases for every death (335 in the UK). 

And in a stark warning, he admitted it may to ‘too late to avoid Italy’, which has seen more than 60,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. 

Ex-Tory leader Sir William Hague also called for more testing, saying in a comment piece for The Telegraph that a more rigorous swabbing strategy was 'the route back to a free society from coronavirus'

Ex-Tory leader Sir William Hague also called for more testing, saying in a comment piece for The Telegraph that a more rigorous swabbing strategy was ‘the route back to a free society from coronavirus’

WHAT IS AN ANTIBODY TEST, AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO AN ANTIGEN OR SWAB TEST? 

ANTIBODY TEST

An antibody test is one which tests whether someone’s immune system is equipped to fight a specific disease or infection.

When someone gets infected with a virus their immune system must work out how to fight it off and produce substances called antibodies.

These are extremely specific and are usually only able to tackle one strain of one virus. They are produced in a way which makes them able to latch onto that specific virus and destroy it.

For example, if someone catches COVID-19, they will develop COVID-19 antibodies for their body to use to fight it off.

The body then stores versions of these antibodies in the immune system so that if it comes into contact with that same virus again it will be able to fight it off straight away and probably avoid someone feeling any symptoms at all.

To test for these antibodies, medics or scientists can take a fluid sample from someone – usually blood – and mix it with part of the virus to see if there is a reaction between the two.

If there is a reaction, it means someone has the antibodies and their body knows how to fight off the infection – they are immune. If there is no reaction it means they have not had it yet.

SWAB TEST 

Antibody tests differ to a swab test, known as a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which aims to pick up on active viruses currently in the bloodstream.

A PCR test works by a sample of someone’s genetic material – their RNA – being taken to lab and worked up in a full map of their DNA at the time of the test.

This DNA can then be scanned to find evidence of the virus’s DNA, which will be embroiled with the patient’s own if they are infected at the time.

The PCR test is more reliable but takes longer, while the antibody test is faster but more likely to produce an inaccurate result. It does not look for evidence of past infection.

ANTIGEN TEST  

Antigens are parts of a virus that trigger the immune system’s response to fight the infection, and can show up in blood before antibodies are made. 

The key advantage of antigen tests is that it can take several days for the immune system to develop enough antibodies to be picked up by a test, whereas antigens can be seen almost immediately after infection. 

Antigen tests are used to diagnose patients with flu, as well as malaria, strep A and HIV. 

Mr Hunt, who was the longest serving Health Secretary before Matt Hancock took over in 2018, told MPs: ‘All our public focus has on social distancing.

‘But testing and contact tracing to break the chain of transmission is every bit as important if not more important.

‘South Korea avoided national lockdown despite having a worse outbreak initially than us. 

‘Taiwan introduced temperature scanning in malls and office buildings but kept shops and restaurants open, they’ve had just two deaths.

‘In Singapore restaurants remain open and schools reopening.

‘But 10 days ago in this country we went in the opposite direction and stopped testing in the community. 

Mr Hunt added: ‘How can we possibly suppress the virus if we don’t know where it is?’

He said that the infection toll was likely to double every five days, meaning more than one million patients would be infected by the end of next week. 

And Mr Hunt added: ‘Unless we radically change direction, we won’t know where they are.’ 

Former leader of the Conservative party, William Hague said large-scale testing needs to ‘become the norm’, like seen in Singapore and South Korea. 

In a comment piece for The Telegraph, headlined ‘rigorous testing is the route back to a free society from coronavirus’, he said: ‘Ministers have spoken of the availability in the near future of tests for the antibodies that will show who has had the virus and enjoys some immunity to it. 

‘Those people should then be back at work and free to travel. More widely, rigorous testing for the virus itself, and the ruthless isolating of anyone suffering from it and tracking of all their recent contacts, need to become the norm once the pandemic is on a more manageable scale. 

‘This has been the approach of Singapore and South Korea, and it is better than long term constraints on the whole population.’

It was revealed yesterday Number 10 was working with the inventors of the home pregnancy test to develop a coronavirus testing kit in the UK and Senegal.

Mologic was granted £1million to produce two different types of test which reveal if someone has ever had the deadly virus in the past.

The kits – one will look for antigens in spit, the other will scour blood for antibodies – could also tell if a person currently has the infection.

But the company, who laboratory in Bedfordshire was visited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this month, estimates it will be up to six months before Brits can use them.

A senior Government minister – Secretary of State for Housing and Communities, Robert Jenrick – said millions of antibody tests will be available in the UK within weeks.

HOW MANY PATIENTS ARE BEING TESTED IN THE UK? 

DATE 

Feb 25

Feb 26

Feb 27

Feb 28

Feb 29

Mar 1

Mar 2

Mar 3

Mar 4

Mar 5

Mar 6

Mar 7

Mar 8

Mar 9

Mar 10

Mar 11

Mar 12

Mar 13

Mar 14

Mar 15

Mar 16

Mar 17

Mar 18

Mar 19

Mar 20

Mar 21

Mar 22

Mar 23

TESTS PER DAY

259

337

558

1,296

1,497

1,267

1,775

386

2,748

1,424

2,255

1,122

2,053

1,447

1,301

1,215

2,288

2,209

5,773

2,533

3,826

6,337

5,779

8,400

2,346

5,851

5,522

5,605

But officials have repeatedly failed to provide any clarity on who is making them, or where they will be made.

Antibody tests check to see if the body has substances in the immune system which are created when it comes into contact with the virus for the first time.

They could be a game-changer for the UK and allow health officials to work out when people are safe because they’ve already had COVID-19.

However, the tests can’t accurately tell if a patient is currently infected, unlike swab tests – which take much longer to get a result.

If a test comes back positive and they have a cough or fever, it suggests the patient is currently infected – but many patients only suffer mild symptoms.

Mologic is also working on an antigen test. The firm hopes it will take just 10 minutes to produce a result, like that of the antibody test.

Antigens are parts of a virus that trigger the immune system’s response to fight the infection, and can show up in blood before antibodies are made.

Another company making tests in the UK is SureScreen, which has created a finger-prick test which takes 10 minutes to return a result. 

SureScreen’s tests cost £6 each and are reportedly being used by private companies in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. 

The Derby-based firm is in talks with the Government about getting them rolled out on the NHS. It claims they are 98 per cent accurate.

People are desperately calling for NHS staff, at the least, to be tested so they can be sure they are safe to stay at work without infecting people.

ARMY SENT TO SEIZE TESTING MACHINES TO SWAB NHS STAFF 

The Army was sent to seize testing machines from university labs as ministers race to carry out urgent coronavirus checks on NHS staff.

Soldiers from the Army’s 101 Logistic Brigade have also dropped off medical masks at St Thomas’ Hospital in London following warnings that doctors feel like ‘lambs to the slaughter’ due to the lack of proper protection. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now facing increasing pressure to increase the number of checks available, telling the House of Commons he wants the country to ‘get to a point where everybody who wants to get tested can get tested’. 

A Government review has identified hundreds of PCR machines in use at universities and companies that are able to detect the virus’ genetic material.

Military logistic teams have begun transporting the machines to a central lab where the standardised tests can quickly be put into action, the Times reported.

The Department of Health has requested to speed up collecting the machines – and a Whitehall source has said the military was acting as ‘essentially a delivery service’. 

Currently, doctors and nurses have to follow the same advice as everyone else and to self-isolate if they or a family member feels ill.

But some people do not show symptoms, and some people may get other illnesses like colds or flu which would not require them to take so much time off work.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that he wanted to get NHS staff testing up and running ‘as soon as possible’.

The Government has repeatedly promised to ramp up the testing programme in the UK and Boris Johnson said he wants to ramp up to 25,000 tests per day.

But the daily number has never exceeded 8,400 and the daily average last week was in the region of 5,000.

Yesterday it was revealed the government is in talks with Amazon and delivery services about using its services to deliver coronavirus tests to frontline health workers.

Businesses with an established delivery network could be used to deliver the tests to medical workers and then the general public, according to a Financial Times report.

The government said it was trying to step up the delivery of tests to health workers so they know when they can and cannot work.

NHS staff and other care workers across the UK have expressed frustration at a lack of tests, leaving them unsure if they have the virus.

BioMedomics claims its test can screen for coronavirus in 15 minutes using a small drop of blood and a tiny device that can be carried into the field

BioMedomics claims its test can screen for coronavirus in 15 minutes using a small drop of blood and a tiny device that can be carried into the field

Test by test: The types of coronavirus kits from 10-minute finger-prick results to a mask which can diagnose instantly that the government could be using amid row over shortage – as PM brands impending antibody check a ‘game changer’

GOVERNMENT IS WORKING WITH FIRM TO MAKE AN ANTIBODY AND ANTIGEN TEST 

The UK Government is working with the inventors of the home pregnancy test to develop a coronavirus testing kit in Britain and Senegal.

Mologic was granted £1million to produce two different types of test which reveal if someone has ever had the deadly virus in the past. 

The kits – one will look for antigens in spit, the other will scour blood for antibodies – could also tell if a person currently has the infection. 

But the company, who laboratory in Bedfordshire was visited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this month, estimates it will be up to six months before Brits can use them.

Antibody tests check to see if the body has substances in the immune system which are created when it comes into contact with the virus for the first time.

They could be a game-changer for the UK and allow health officials to work out when people are safe because they’ve already had COVID-19.  

However, the tests can’t accurately tell if a patient is currently infected, unlike swab tests – which take much longer to get a result. 

If a test comes back positive and they have a cough or fever, it suggests the patient is currently infected – but many patients only suffer mild symptoms. 

Mologic is also working on an antigen test. The firm hopes it will take just 10 minutes to produce a result, like that of the antibody test. 

Antigens are parts of a virus that trigger the immune system’s response to fight the infection, and can show up in blood before antibodies are made.  

Boris Johnson yesterday announced that coronavirus testing was to be ramped up to 25,000 per day after the government was slammed for potentially allowing tens of thousands of infected people to walk the streets undiagnosed.

Only 5,000 were being swabbed for COVID-19 previously, a fraction of the number seen elsewhere. 

Mr Johnson said a new ‘game changing’ coronavirus test which analyses antibodies in the blood could detect asymptomatic patients and those who have already shrugged off the bug. 

The Prime Minister said this would allow people to know whether they had gained immunity and get back to their working and social lives as soon as possible.   

Public Health England previously said that only patients who meet certain criteria will be able to be tested for the bug and those who were being screened were having nasal swabs. 

The Prime Minister conceded that the NHS will continue to use nasal swab tests that take up to 48 hours to be analysed in a lab.  

Other countries around the world – including the US, China, South Korea, Japan and Italy – have been using testing kits that take just minutes to produce results. 

And in a further development, Oxford University researchers claimed that they have created a new test which analyses viral RNA to detect COVID-19 in just 30 minutes.

Here, MailOnline looks at the cutting-edge testing kits currently being rolled out in other counties and at private clinics in Britain: 

FINGER PRINT TEST

Name: COVID-19 IgM IgG Rapid Test

Manufacturers: BioMedomics

Diagnostic time: 15 minutes 

The blood test is not being used in the UK, despite health bodies in China, Italy and Japan diagnosing patients with it.

On March 5, BioMedomics claimed its ‘quick and easy’ test was ready and being used in South Korea, Japan, Italy, China and some countries in the Middle East. 

After the sample of blood is collected, a technician injects it into the analysis device – which is about the size of an Apple TV or Roku remote – along with some buffer, and waits 15 minutes.

One line means negative, two lines in a spread-out configuration means the sample contains antibodies that the body starts making shortly after infection.

A blood sample is collected, inserted into the reader, a buffer is combined, and results come back within 15 minutes, the company claims

A blood sample is collected, inserted into the reader, a buffer is combined, and results come back within 15 minutes, the company claims 

Two lines closer together mean the person is positive for the later-stage antibodies, and three lines mean the patient is positive for both types of antibodies.  

A small study showed the test produced a correct response 80 per cent of the time.

PHE confirmed it was not using the advanced blood test because it was not accurate enough, and are hoping to develop their own. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also yet to approve it. 

A former PHE strategist said he was ‘not confident’ the test could produce correct results and is therefore unlikely to be rolled out. However, the method was desirable. 

NASAL SWAB

Name: TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit 

Manufacturers: ThermoFisher

Diagnostic time: Four hours 

The DIY test detects specific DNA given off by the coronavirus in the noses of infected patients.

Samples are then delivered to labs where they are analysed and results are produced within four hours.

The test was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration this week and 5million kits will be sent across America in the coming days.

It is hoped the UK will follow suit after representatives from ThermoFisher, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, were seen entering Downing Street last night carrying a box with the tests. 

It is understood ministers were giving a demonstration of how the test works.

FINGER PRICK TEST

Name: COVID-19 Rapid Test Cassette 

Manufacturers: SureScreen Diagnostics

Diagnostic time: Ten minutes 

The private firm, based in Derby, has created a test which can allegedly determine with 98 per cent certainty if a person is infected. 

It involves taking a blood sample via finger prick and then putting it into a screening device.

SureScreen Diagnostics says a prick of blood from the fingertip is sufficient to determine with more than 98 per cent accuracy

SureScreen Diagnostics says a prick of blood from the fingertip is sufficient to determine with more than 98 per cent accuracy

The private firm says its test has been validated and is already being used in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Currently, official swap-based methods take between 24 and 48 hours for results to come back

The private firm says its test has been validated and is already being used in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Currently, official swap-based methods take between 24 and 48 hours for results to come back

Public Health England cautions members of the public against using such tests amid fears they are unreliable, saying there is 'little information on the accuracy of the tests'

Public Health England cautions members of the public against using such tests amid fears they are unreliable, saying there is ‘little information on the accuracy of the tests’

Results are displayed in a similar fashion to those of an at-home pregnancy test within minutes and could potentially save delays in diagnosis. 

SureScreen says its test has been validated and is already being used by private buyers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Turkey, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. 

It is believed around 175,000 tests have been conducted with the SureScreen kit so far. The company claims it has had over two million orders for next month. 

Director David Campbell said: ‘We’ve been working hard to produce a coronavirus test (COVID19) that can be used at the patient side, with capillary blood, easily taken from someone’s fingertip and diagnose them within 10 minutes.

‘There is a big problem with the diagnosis of the disease currently because the standard method of screening is to send samples to the laboratory, which takes a lot of time. 

‘Meanwhile, someone could be spreading the virus without knowing, or having the issue of self-isolation.’  

FACE MASK TESTS

Manufacturers: University of Leicester

Diagnostic time: 12 hours

How it works: Breath test inserted in a mask

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget, which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis, a deadly lung infection.

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget (pictured), which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis

Scientists have started a trial of the pioneering £2 gadget (pictured), which tests have already proven can detect tuberculosis

The researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Pretoria designed 3D printed strips of polyvinyl alcohol that are inserted into the mask (pictured)

The researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Pretoria designed 3D printed strips of polyvinyl alcohol that are inserted into the mask (pictured)

The masks, which could cost pennies if manufactured on a wider scale, are fitted with strips that soak up droplets from the wearer’s breath, which may be carrying traces of bacterial or viral infection.

The strips can be tested in labs with results coming back within hours. Current tests for coronavirus can take up to 48 hours. 

University of Leicester researchers believe it will be at least two months before they can test the masks on actual COVID-19 patients.

But they are hopeful it will work because it is a respiratory disease, meaning it infects the lungs and can is present in the air people breathe out.  

After 30 minutes, the strips can be tested in a laboratory (pictured)

After 30 minutes, the strips can be tested in a laboratory (pictured)

First, the team have to test the gadgets on dozens of patients with other lung infections to prove they can pick up bugs other than tuberculosis, which they were designed for.

Patients with infections such as flu and bronchitis will have the results from their mask tests compared to those from throat swabs, which are known to be accurate. 

Tests on tuberculosis patients, the only ones that have been done so far, show the masks can detect the killer disease almost 90 per cent of the time.

Leicester’s Professor Mike Barer and colleagues are hopeful they will be successful because the coronavirus infects the lungs in a similar way to tuberculosis.

BREATH TEST 

Manufacturers: Northumbria University, Newcastle

Diagnostic time: Almost instantly 

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists.

The technology, developed by a team at Northumbria University in Newcastle, is still in development and needs further testing.

But experts believe it could be quickly change the way the virus is spotted around the world. 

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists (file)

A breath test that helps rapidly identify patients with coronavirus has been developed by British scientists (file)

Dr Sterghios Moschos, right, said the test could be used to produce results in minutes

Dr Sterghios Moschos, right, said the test could be used to produce results in minutes

The Northumbria team’s test collects breath samples which can be tested separately for biological information – known as biomarkers.

These biomarkers, which include DNA, RNA, proteins and fat molecules, can spot diseases of the lung and other parts of the body.

People simply breath into the device, which is similar to a breathalyser used by the police.

Dr Sterghios Moschos, associate professor at Northumbria University, said: ‘Our ambition is to reduce the need for bloodletting for diagnosis in its broadest sense.’ 

The test is currently being trialled.  

PRIVATE HARLEY STREET CLINIC

Manufacturers: Private Harley Street Clinic

Diagnostic time: Three days

How it works: Nose and throat swab

Price: £375  

More than 2,000 people have ordered a £375 home testing kit from a Harley Street clinic in London after being turned down by the NHS, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In addition to individuals, some 60 firms including oil and telecoms companies, have bought them for their staff. 

On its website, the item can be easily 'added to cart,' much in the same way as conventional online products

On its website, the item can be easily ‘added to cart,’ much in the same way as conventional online products

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London's world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London’s world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each

The test is posted to the client’s home or preferred address, where the client takes swabs from both the nostrils and throat. 

The sample is then placed in the box provided and posted back as per the instructions. 

Dr Mark Ali, director of the Private Harley Street Clinic on London’s world-renowned medical avenue, said his practice was offering a new kit for £375 each.

On its website, the item can be easily ‘added to cart,’ much in the same way as conventional online products.

The practice says the test is ‘performed by a world renown UKAS accredited British laboratory and the test results are 100% accurate and do not require further tests to confirm any diagnoses.’

The website hastens to add, that though it oversees the entire process, patients should not attempt to pick up their kits from Harley Street.

‘Please note under no circumstances can this test be done in our clinic or be collected from our clinic.’ The website states.

‘It is sent to your designated address by courier service within 48 hrs. Please refer to the details below and order through the link at the bottom of this page.’

Dr Ali told The Telegraph he has received countless requests from buyers.

‘People are worried sick. They want to get some clarity back in their lives,’ he told The Telegraph. 

‘We’ve got university students in England who want to go back to Nepal, but need to know if they have the disease so they can be let back into their own country.

‘We’ve got a businessman who owns a construction company employing 60 people. He needs to know the state of play, or he risks letting down his customers. So every single person in that company is being tested.’ 

ANTIGEN TEST

Manufacturers: Mologic

Diagnostic time: Ten minutes 

British firm Mologic is working on an antigen test after receiving £1million from the UK Government. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken on a tour of the Bedford laboratory of Mologic earlier this month

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken on a tour of the Bedford laboratory of Mologic earlier this month

The firm hopes it will take just 10 minutes to produce a result, like that of the antibody test. 

Antigens are parts of a virus that trigger the immune system’s response to fight the infection, and can show up in blood before antibodies are made. 

SALIVA TEST

Manufacturer: myLAB Box

US-based firm myLAB Box is mass producing a home test that requires a saliva swab to be sent away to an overnight lab to be analysed

US-based firm myLAB Box is mass producing a home test that requires a saliva swab to be sent away to an overnight lab to be analysed

Diagnostic time: One day  

US-based firm myLAB Box announced this week that it has opened pre-sales of its COVID-19 home test for health professionals, doctors surgeries and pharmacies. 

They require suspected patients to self-collect a saliva swab sample. These samples are sent away to a CDC lab to be analysed overnight.

myLAB Box also said that free telephone consultations will be made available to those who test positive for the virus.

It is planning to process up to 20,000 tests per day once it is approved by the FDA. It is currently under review. 

FINGER PRICK TEST 

Manufacturer: Scanwell 

Diagnostic time: 15 minutes 

American startup Scanwell has produced a finger prick coronavirus test that takes just 15 minutes to complete at home.

It is posted to users via next-day delivery and is used alongside the Scanwell Health App. 

American startup Scanwell has produced a finger prick coronavirus test that takes just 15 minutes to complete at home. It will work in conjunction with a health app (similar to its UTI test)

American startup Scanwell has produced a finger prick coronavirus test that takes just 15 minutes to complete at home. It will work in conjunction with a health app (similar to its UTI test)

The test can be completed and uploaded through the app within 15 minutes, according to the company  

The test is being fast-tracked for approval by the FDA but isn’t expected to hit the US market for another six to eight weeks.

Scanwell is best known for its smartphone-based urinary tract infection screening platform.

CT SCANS

Who came up with the idea? Mount Sinai Health System, New York

Diagnostic time: 1 hour 30 minutes

How it works: Detects lung damage  

Doctors from The Mount Sinai Health System in New York say CT scans may be faster than nasal and throat swabs at diagnosing coronavirus patients. 

The team were the first in the US to analyze lung scans of patients in China with the highly contagious disease.   

They said they were able to identify specific patterns in the lungs as markers of the virus, also known as COVID-19, as it developed over the course of about two weeks>

Patients who received scans zero to two days after symptoms first appeared had little to no evidence of lung disease in their results like this 19-year-old male who had a CT scan one day after symptoms first appeared

Patients who received scans zero to two days after symptoms first appeared had little to no evidence of lung disease in their results like this 19-year-old male who had a CT scan one day after symptoms first appeared

The team said the pattern in the lung of coronavirus patients are similar to scans of patients with SARS and very different from diseases such as bacterial pneumonia (pictured)

The team said the pattern in the lung of coronavirus patients are similar to scans of patients with SARS and very different from diseases such as bacterial pneumonia (pictured)

The researchers say these quicker diagnoses could help keep patients isolated in early stages of the disease, perhaps even before symptoms appear and when it may not show up on other scans such as chest X-rays. 

‘CT scans are an extremely powerful diagnostic tool, because you can seen the inner organs in a three-dimensional way,’ lead author Dr Adam Bernheim, an assistant professor of diagnostic, molecular and interventional radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told DailyMail.com.

‘And you can see the manifestation of many diseases.’ 

For the study, published in the journal Radiology, the team analyzed scans of 94 patients at four medical centers in four Chinese provinces.

The patients had been admitted between January 18 and February 2, and all had either recently traveled to Wuhan – the epicenter of an outbreak – or had come into contact with an infected person.

Radiologists reviewed the scan and took notes based on when symptoms first appeared and when the CT scan was performed.

Thirty-six patients received scans zero to two days after reporting symptoms and more than half showed no evidence of lung disease.

The team says this is important because it suggests that CT scans cannot reliably detect coronavirus in its very earliest stages.

Nasal and throat swabs test can identify patients even before patients become symptomatic, although some may still have the virus if they first test negative. 

Its results, however, may take days to get back from the agency’s labs.

But 33 patients who received scans three to five days after symptoms developed had patterns of ‘ground glass opacities,’ or haziness in the lungs. 

‘The lung abnormalities are very round in shape and affect the perimeter of the lung,’ co-author Dr Michael Chung, an assistant professor of diagnostic, molecular and interventional radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told DailyMail.com.

Failure to test medics ‘a major threat to NHS’ 

By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent for The Daily Mail 

Failure to test doctors and nurses for coronavirus is putting both staff and patients in serious danger, medical chiefs warned yesterday.

Officials are more alarmed by the issue than the shortage of masks and protective clothing, a survey by the Health Service Journal has revealed.

The Government attempted to deflect criticism yesterday by announcing it had bought 3.5million antibody tests that show whether people have already had the virus.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said testing staff was now ‘one of the biggest issues that needs resolution’.

Failure to test doctors and nurses for coronavirus is putting both staff and patients in serious danger, medical chiefs warned yesterday. Pictured: A coronavirus testing kit held by a nurse in Wolverhampton

Failure to test doctors and nurses for coronavirus is putting both staff and patients in serious danger, medical chiefs warned yesterday. Pictured: A coronavirus testing kit held by a nurse in Wolverhampton

Boris Johnson promised last week to scale up testing from 5,000 to 10,000 people a day, reaching 25,000 a day within three weeks. But less than 6,500 people a day are being tested at the moment, with the total number who have received a test rising from 83,945 on Monday to 90,436 yesterday. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs the UK was testing ‘virtually no more people than over a week ago’, prompting the reply from the Government that it had bought 3.5million antibody tests.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) had surveyed chief executives from 34 NHS trusts across England for their biggest concerns over the outbreak.

Three-quarters of them raised the lack of tests for staff, and this was tied with staff shortages as the top issue.

Testing would be particularly important for nurses on intensive care units, who are dealing with the sickest patients. Last night, almost 1.2million people had signed a petition calling for frontline NHS staff to be tested as a priority.

Mr Hunt told the HSJ the Government had to move ‘much faster’, adding: ‘We need to massively ramp up the community testing if we’re going to suppress the virus properly.’ The NHS has already lost staff who fall into high-risk groups for coronavirus, such as pregnant women and the over-70s.

The Health Service, which the Prime Minister has warned could be ‘completely overwhelmed’, has been hit further by self-isolation rules.

Any NHS staff member who has possible symptoms must stay at home for seven days, or 14 days if a family member has symptoms, piling pressure on the Health Service. But a simple test could put them in the clear and allow them to work.

Mr Hopson tweeted: ‘It’s striking how many trust CEOs are telling us today that staff testing is vital and they feel that it’s now one of the biggest issues that needs resolution if they are to properly support staff in the way they want to.’

He added: ‘Trusts are doing all they can to work round this [such as] putting up staff who haven’t actually been in contact with Covid family members in hotels, and reassigning vulnerable groups to other work.’ Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced yesterday a new testing facility in Milton Keynes had opened, said: ‘We are ramping up testing as fast as we can, including buying millions of tests. My team is currently buying these tests – we’ll make them available as quickly as possible.’

Covid-19 victims told to beware of taking ibuprofen 

Patient with coronavirus symptoms are advised to avoid taking ibuprofen as a precaution. 

Some experts are concerned that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen could worsen coronavirus by ‘dampening down’ the immune system. 

While there is no strong evidence that this is the case, scientists are investigating possible links between ibuprofen and the worsening of symptoms. In the meantime, the NHS has advised people with symptoms of Covid-19 to take paracetamol instead. 

But they stressed it was important that patients already taking ibuprofen for chronic diseases or pain continued to take their medication as normal. I f t h e y develop coronavirus symptoms, patients are advised to speak to their doctor before they stop taking ibuprofen. 

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs last week: ‘The sensible thing to do would be to say don’t take it at the moment.’ 

A Government statement says: ‘There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse. 

‘Until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.’ 

It adds: ‘There is some debate suggesting NSAIDs may increase complications from simple acute respiratory infections or slow recovery.’ 

The product information of many NSAIDs already contains warnings that their anti-inflammatory effects may hide the symptoms of a worsening infection. 

However the evidence is not conclusive.’ Concerns over ibuprofen began when France’s health minister, Olivier Veran, tweeted that anti-inflammatory drugs ‘may be a factor in worsening the infection’. 

An article in the medical journal The BMJ mentions four young patients who, according to an infectious diseases doctor in south-west France, developed serious symptoms of coronavirus despite having no underlying health problems. 

They had all apparently used anti – inflammatory drugs in the early stages of the symptoms. 

Last week, Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Nurofen – a type of ibuprofen – said it was liaising with the World Health Organisation and other health bodies, but it stressed that there was no current evidence linking ibuprofen to the worsening of Covid-19. 

The statement added: ‘Consumer safety is our number one priority. Ibuprofen is a wellestablished medicine that has been used safely as a self-care fever and pain reducer, including in viral illnesses, for more than 30 years. ‘We do not currently believe there is any proven scientific evidence linking over-the-counter use of ibuprofen to the aggravation of Covid-19. 

The Government attempted to deflect criticism yesterday by announcing it had bought 3.5million antibody tests that show whether people have already had the virus (stock image)

The Government attempted to deflect criticism yesterday by announcing it had bought 3.5million antibody tests that show whether people have already had the virus (stock image)

A leaked email published on the Politico website suggested No10 had issued a plea to research institutions for expensive coronavirus testing equipment on Sunday afternoon. This apparently had been a request from Boris Johnson to borrow or purchase the equipment as there were ‘no machines left to buy’.

There have also been reports of the Army being drafted in to seize equipment from private institutions. The Government denied that it had waited until Sunday to ask for support, insisting that efforts had been going on for weeks. And Mr Hancock said he ‘didn’t recognise’ the report suggesting there were no machines to buy.

World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week: ‘We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test.’

  • Latest coronavirus video news, views and expert advice at mailplus.co.uk/coronavirus

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

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Written by Angle News

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