Luke O'Neill on antigen tests: 'The HSE should have organised it better... Lidl has filled the gap'


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.16 10 May 2021


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Professor Luke O'Neill says it is important people don't think antigen tests being sold in Lidl are 'bulletproof'.

However, the Trinity College immunologist believes it's a good thing the supermarket is selling the kits - suggesting the HSE and Government should have organised the rollout of rapid testing more effectively.

Lidl announced they were selling the tests last week, and are already reported to have sold thousands of five-test boxes.

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However, the move has drawn sharp criticism from NPHET - with Dr Tony Holohan saying the tests could "falsely reassure people" if not used properly.

Professor Philip Nolan, another member of NPHET, took to Twitter over the weekend to criticise the supermarket chain's tests.

Lidl is urging shoppers to continue to "stringently follow the public health advice", and hopes that the tests add "an extra level of reassurance".

Professor O'Neill told The Pat Kenny Show he does understand the concerns of public health officials.

Luke O'Neill on antigen tests: 'The HSE should have organised it better... Lidl has filled the gap'

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He said: “It’s a tricky one. What you don’t want is people buying them and thinking they’re bulletproof.

“[Tony Holohan] said if there was a wedding you might miss half of them. But still: you’ve caught half of them, haven’t you? You've decreased the risk at that wedding by 50%... that has to be a good thing.

“50% effective is not bad… and you tell them to take a PCR test if you’re positive. Lidl kind of stole a march on the Government, in a sense."

He believes health officials should have been more effective in rolling out widespread antigen testing.

He said: “Let Lidl sell their kits - it’s great. The HSE should have issued guidelines and organised this better, in my view. Lidl has filled that gap.”

“That kit's been validated by the EU…it’s got all the correct labelling. Let’s see what happens next.”

Masks and vaccination

Professor O'Neill also highlighted recent studies looking at how effective vaccines are at creating COVID-19 antibodies in people's noses and mouths.

He explained: “They looked at people’s noses and mouths after a single shot of Moderna, and measured the fluids in the nose and mouth every five days to look for antibodies. They weren’t sure there would be [antibodies].

“This study shows a fantastic result altogether - huge amounts of antibodies can be detected in the nose and mouth after one shot.”

Professor O'Neill said it shows the body has the “weaponry in place” in place post-vaccination to stop the spread of the virus.

The protection was particularly strong in the nose - meaning if any virus goes in, it gets eliminated.

The Trinity immunologist explained: “What this means… we’re heading towards not having to wear masks after we’re vaccinated. When you’re vaccinated, you will not pick up the virus and won’t spread it.

“Not yet, let’s emphasise: otherwise you’d have people ripping off their masks. We don’t want that just now, as this is the first study that’s strong.

“The antibodies become your mask… a real barrier. Nobody likes wearing masks, although in winter it would make sense to wear masks indoors to stop all those other viruses…. just in certain settings, with crowds indoors.”


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