UK researchers have made a discovery which they believe will lead to a long Covid blood test that patients could access via their GP.
Pilot data from an Imperial College London study has identified autoantibodies common to people with long-term symptoms, although more research is required.
The researchers believe some people infected with Covid-19 have seen their own immune system turning on itself, creating antibodies that attack healthy cells, they told the BBC’s Panorama.
Imperial College London’s Professor Danny Altmann, who leads the long Covid research team, told the programme: ‘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.’
He added that he thinks this ‘could have quite a big impact for people who don’t feel they’ve managed to convince their GP or accessed specialist care because instead of being my word against yours, it has a diagnostic test’.
It comes as NHS England last month announced a new long Covid enhanced service for GPs worth 50p per patient, – £30m in total – funding practices ‘to plan their workforce set up, training needs and infrastructure in order to support patients with this new condition’.
NHS England had also promised to set up 89 long Covid clinics, but research carried out by Panorama showed that four of those clinics do not provide treatment for patients who were not hospitalised with Covid, while 10 of the clinics had waiting lists of more than 100 days, including one clinic with a six-month wait.