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Fiona fox's blog

ask the experts – SMC background briefing on testing

Testing has been at the heart of the national strategy to tackle Covid-19.  But after 2 months do any of us fully understand the real issues around testing?  While so many questions at the Downing Street press conferences have focussed on targets and numbers of tests, scientists heavily involved in testing have been more worried about the quality of testing and standardising tests globally with a view to gathering the most useful information to tackle the pandemic.  Given that science and health journalists will continue to be reporting on different aspects of testing and indeed multiple kinds of tests, we thought we would offer this Q&A with leading experts who we hoped could answer any remaining questions/confusions.

Journalists attended our expert panel to learn:

  • Why there is still a need for innovation in tests for COVID-19
  • Why countries are struggling to reach their own testing targets
  • What are the tests now available, which ones will be most helpful and do we need all of them
  • Why antibody tests are so complicated, and what their results can tell us
  • Why we don’t seem to be able to get tests that are as accurate as we need them to be
  • How measurement standards could support testing confidence
  • What is needed to get a new test from development to doorstep
  • How different testing strategies can impact everyday life
  • What is driving inequality in testing across the globe
  • Should we expect to see new tests being developed as the pandemic continues


Speakers included:

Prof David Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Dr Catharina Boehme, Chief Executive Officer of FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics)

Dr Jim Huggett, Principal Scientist in LGC’s Health Science and Innovation Division and Senior Lecturer in Analytical Microbiology at the University of Surrey

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