Prevalence of IgG and IgM antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among clinic staff and patients

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is now a pandemic with devastating social and economic consequences. The extent of the spread of COVID-19 within populations is uncertain since diagnostic tests have not been carried out on all eligible persons and doing such diagnostic tests on everyone is much less feasible in developing countries such as Nigeria. Tests for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are more affordable, readily available, and require minimal training than current diagnostic tests. Employing a seroepidemiological strategy, serological tests were conducted on 66 volunteering staff and patients at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), a Federal Government owned tertiary healthcare facility, to determine the extent of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, from 17th to 25th June 2020. Using a COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test Cassette with emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States, it was observed that of the 66 samples tested, 5 (7.6%) were both IgG and IgM positive and 17 (26%) were IgG positive. Moreover, for 44 of the 66 participants, simultaneous tests were carried out using a rapid test kit from a different manufacturer but without FDA-EUA and all the results completely matched with the FDA-EUA kit, except one case where the FDA-EUA kit showed positive for both IgG and IgM while the other kit was positive only for IgM. The 26% positive IgG indicates a high exposure rate for the hospital staff and patients and points to community transmission where the facility is situated. Hence, immediate activation of WHO guidelines for controlling community transmission is called for. These results can further serve as a pilot study to guide public health policies in response to COVID-19 pandemic in both the general population and in healthcare settings.

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