Antibody tests were hailed as a way to end lockdowns, provide confidence of immunity and usher in a return to normality.
But despite claims last year that such tests were days away from being validated, officials have yet to approve them for at-home use in the UK.
Professor Mirela Delibegovic, a scientist at the University of Aberdeen , believes that could soon change.
On Tuesday, her team said they had created new tests that could detect antibody responses to coronavirus infections with more than 98pc accuracy. That compares to current tests which are around 60-93pc accurate.
Her research, she says, could provide a boost for the government after Boris Johnson publicly touted antibody tests as a "total game changer.” But there is still a long way to go to convince sceptics.
Months after Johnson’s comments, Sir John Bell, the UK vaccine tsar and government adviser who was behind the push to set up a consortium of antibody test companies, was already dampening hopes. In September, he said the concern was that they "still don't really know what antibodies do to protect you".
Across the world, regulators have urged the tests be used with caution, with the Food & Drug Administration last month saying: "While a positive antibody test result can be used to help identify people who may have had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, more research is needed in people who have received a Covid-19 vaccination."
Meanwhile, in the UK, sales of antibody tests have faced complications, with companies including private healthcare provider Babylon Health stopping sending out antibody test kits last year after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) asked that sales of the tests be paused.
In the NHS, tests have so far been solely reserved for healthcare workers, after the Government struck a deal for one million doses of antibody tests made by the government-backed consortium, headed up by London-listed Abingdon Health.
Test makers have also been dogged by concerns over accuracy. In November, as Abindgon was still working to deliver the tests to the Government, researchers for Public Health England claimed they were not as accurate as previously thought.
Still, more broadly, focus has centred around how much can be gleaned from the results. Months after Sir John flagged his concerns over what the tests do, there remains little research which proves that the discovery of antibodies in someone's system means they have immunity against Covid-19.
On the NHS website, it warns that antibody tests do not show "if you're immune to Covid-19" or "if you can or cannot spread the virus to other people". For some people, the question has been: what do they show then?
Chris Hand, the chairman of Abingdon Health, says he is hopeful that soon researchers will have that answer. "There isn’t definitive evidence yet as to what level of antibodies infer immunity. But I think that's coming. There's a lot of work ongoing on what levels of antibodies can be related to."
But the scientists behind the Aberdeen tests argue that there are clear benefits to being able to map whether somebody has antibodies to the virus.
"We may need booster vaccines from September onwards, and with the test, you'd be able to know how long antibodies can last for, as well as, if you've had the virus and been vaccinated, whether you've got additional protection so you maybe don't require the booster," says Professor Delibegovic.
With variants emerging at pace, having the tools to find out if a vaccine is working against a specific emerging strain could prove invaluable, giving a head start on understanding when vaccines need to be tweaked, she says.
Professor Delibegovic says the antibody tests should be seen as offering some clarity as to how people can cope with Covid-19. "It doesn’t really say whether you’re a carrier, but it does tell you how well you can mount a response if you were exposed to an individual with Covid-19. If a variant comes along, how well are you protected?"
"It can give individuals peace of mind if they do have a positive test," Hand agrees. "And if they don't, well they might want to consider their behaviour."
Both are hopeful that antibody tests could finally play a role in the next part of the Covid-19 fight. Will they prove a ‘game-changer’?
“That’s the Government’s expression,” Hand shrugs. “Look, antibody testing isn’t going away. And it will only become more prevalent.”
The British public would be forgiven for thinking they’ve heard that claim before.
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