A leading pharmaceutical firm which has a UK base in Greater Brighton has received the backing of UK public health officials for its test which finds out whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past.

Public Health England said the antibody test, developed by Roche, was a “very positive development”, according to a report by the BBC.

The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity.

Roche, which is Swiss owned but has its UK diagnostics base in Burgess Hill, is understood to be in talks with the Department of Health and Social Care about possible use by the NHS in England.

It comes after the firm announced earlier this month it had been given approval to ramp up its production for potential use in Europe and the US after its initial tests showed it was 99.8% specific for Covid-19 – so it is not confused by antibodies against other viruses which cause colds – and 100% sensitive, so it will pick up any antibodies that are present.

At the time, Severin Schwan, CEO Roche Group, said: “Thanks to the enormous efforts of our dedicated colleagues we are now able to deliver a high-quality antibody test in high quantities, so we can support healthcare systems around the world with an important tool to better manage the COVID-19 health crisis.

“I am in particular pleased about the high specificity and sensitivity of our test, which is crucial to support health care systems around the world with a reliable tool to better manage the COVID-19 health crisis.”

With extensive global manufacturing capabilities, Roche will be able to deliver high double-digit millions of tests per month. Hospitals and reference laboratories can run the test on Roche’s cobas e analysers, which are widely available around the world.

Thomas Schinecker, CEO Roche Diagnostics, said: “Our best scientists have worked 24/7 over the last few weeks and months to develop a highly reliable antibody test to help fight this pandemic.

“Roche is committed to helping laboratories deliver fast, accurate, and reliable results to healthcare professionals and their patients.”