Coronavirus antibody testing centre launches in Old Street
- Credit: Pyser
Gazette reporter Emma Bartholomew gets tested for coronavirus antibodies at Pyser’s new testing centre in Old Street.
Since the start of lockdown I’ve been wondering if the flu-like respiratory illness my partner came down with in March might have been coronavirus.
In the face of this raging global pandemic, I would personally find it reassuring to think I’d been exposed to the virus and not caught it.
I had watched a whole episode of The Crown a metre away from him on the sofa when he was still a bit poorly, despite my better judgement that had told me to outright avoid him the previous few days.
So I jumped at the chance to get my family checked out for Covid-19 antibodies, with the launch of Pyser’s new testing centre off Old Street.
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In March when the UK had just a handful of confirmed infections, it was nigh-on impossible to get a test for the illness.
NHS 111 was inundated with so many callers you had to stay on hold for over an hour to speak to someone and because of the UK’s lack of testing kits, the only people eligible for testing at that point were those who had just returned from a hotspot abroad or others who were having trouble breathing.
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Tests in private clinics soon came on the market for an eye-watering £350 a go.
So in comparison, Pyser’s fast-track antibody testing service is a bargain, with prices starting at £48.
You can book online and slots at Pyser’s testing centre at the Honourable Artillery Company army base in Bunhill Row are available between 9am to 5pm weekdays.
Pyser was founded by investment banker and former SAS officer Ian Hannam, who recruited medics from his network of veterans who have previously served in overseas’ conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.
Two tests are available. The cheaper CTK test, which is 97 per cent reliable, and will indicate within 15 minutes if you currently have the disease or antibodies to it.
Alternatively the PHE-approved Abbott test is a couple of per cent more reliable but a bit more expensive too, at £96.
If you take both tests, you get £14 off and it costs £130.
We had to show ID at the gate and our temperatures were taken three times, including on a thermal body temperature TV screen camera, to help weed out anyone who’s contagious.
Those that do think they have coronavirus symptoms are asked to wait until they’re better to be tested, so as not to infect staff and other customers, and anyone who does test positive is asked to leave the centre immediately. Thankfully this is a rare occurrence.
We were given masks to put on before we were allowed into the expansive hall where the testing is carried out and first had a finger-prick blood sample taken for the rapid onsite test.
I made sure to look the other way as I’m a bit squeamish about these things, but apparently you just need enough blood to fill the base of the plastic container. It’s similar to a pregnancy test where you wait to see if a line appears, to see if you either have IgM antibodies – meaning you have coronavirus right now, or another line if you have IgM antibodies to see if you recovered from a Covid-19 infection.
We then had a standard blood test for the Abbott test, which is sent off to a lab, before being directed to where the results of our first tests are waiting for us.
Disappointingly none of us had any immunity.
So it wasn’t a surprise when the results from the second test came back a couple of days later via email to say the same.
Apparently 10 per cent of all those tested at the centre have showed up with antibodies though.
With the disease being so new, it’s still unknown how much protection antibodies provide against reinfection.
A King’s College London team published a study in the last fortnight which shows steep drops in patients’ antibody levels three months after infection, suggesting the virus could end up reinfecting people year after year, like a nastier version of the common cold.
Who knows if our results might have been different had we been tested a few months ago.
Book online at pysertesting.com.