How many people were already using the novel Corona virus SARS-CoV-2 infected and now have antibodies against it? The number of these people in Germany who are potentially already immune to SARS-CoV-2 is currently unclear. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is therefore planning to find out this amount in several large-scale antibody studies. The first of these should start next week.
Missing information should be obtained
The researchers at the Robert Koch Institute have set themselves the goal of finding out in the new studies how widespread the new corona virus is in Germany. This means determining how many Germans already have an infection have suffered and who is already immune to the pathogen (at least for a while). This is essential data that will have a significant impact on the future course of the pandemic.
In Germany, all infections with SARS-CoV-2 are notifiable, but a high number of unreported cases is assumed. This is because not all sufferers experience severe or even complaints. As a result, by far not everyone affected takes medical help. According to the RKI, infections with the novel corona virus actually occur quite often with only mild or no symptoms.
Information thanks to the antibody test
In addition, a so-called PCR test is currently being carried out if an acute infection with SARS-CoV-2 is suspected. This searches for the genetic makeup of the virus, usually using a throat swab. However, it is not investigated whether antibodies have been raised against the pathogen. Now there are tests for the detection of antibodies that can prove a past infection. Antibodies can be detected at the earliest one to two weeks after infection. The RKI now wants to use these tests to get a more detailed insight into the outbreak mechanism.
Blood tests from this month
As of next week, serological analyzes of 5,000 blood samples are to be carried out every two weeks in cooperation with the blood donation services. This is supposed to draw conclusions about the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 allow. The first results are expected to follow in early May. According to the RKI, laboratory analysis will be carried out in close cooperation with the Institute for Virology of the Charité University Medicine Berlin headed by Prof. Christian Drosten.
In addition, the RKI has to carry out such seroepidemiological studies in some particularly badly affected places in Germany, so-called “hotspots”. For this purpose, around 2,000 adults are examined several times in each of these locations and interviewed about clinical symptoms, state of health, lifestyle, mental state, previous illnesses, etc. According to the RKI, the studies should start in mid-April. The first results should already be available here in May.
Based on representative samples, the RKI intends to find out how many residents of the local population already have antibodies against the new corona virus and to be able to use this knowledge to estimate the existing immunity of other regions. In addition, the share of symptom-free infections can also be assessed with the findings. Also potential risk factors for you severe course of the disease can stand out. Planning and implementation are carried out in cooperation with the team led by Prof. Gérard Krause from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig.
You can find out here whether you belong to one of the Corona risk groups and what this means in the near future:
Examination with 15,000 subjects
In addition, according to the RKI, a nationwide representative seroepidemiological study is being planned. As part of this, the distribution of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 is to be determined at the federal level. For this research, 15,000 adult subjects at 150 study sites across Germany are to be examined. Here too, the participants will be asked about clinical symptoms, health status, lifestyle, mental state and previous illnesses. The study is scheduled to start in mid-May and the first results should be available in June.
Better insight into the crisis
The planned studies are expected to provide important knowledge about the actual spread of the new coronavirus, as well as more about immunity, the amount of asymptomatic infections, mortality and the risk factors for a severe course of the disease. The image of Corona should be sharper. The results of the antibody tests are of the utmost importance in order to be able to determine the course of the disease and the danger from the pandemic more precisely. In this way, the measures taken so far can also be better assessed.