Coronavirus prevalence study now also detects antibodies

In the coronavirus prevalence study led by the University of Tartu, researchers continue to determine the spread of the virus but now also start to estimate how many people have developed antibodies to the virus. This way, besides the spread of the virus, it is possible to get an idea of the percentage of adult population who have potentially acquired immunity. 

Coronavirus antibodies appear in the human blood in the second to third week of the disease or after vaccination. According to research, the antibodies may persist in the blood for at least half a year. The head of the monitoring survey, University of Tartu Professor of Family Medicine Ruth Kalda said that the antibody test was included in the study to gain a better understanding of the development of possible immunity in adults. “The antibody test shows how many people have already had COVID-19 or have had contact with the coronavirus. The detection of antibodies further enables to estimate the immunity rate in the population, considering also that a certain amount of people have already been vaccinated against coronavirus. The results of the study will be helpful for healthcare decision-makers,” Kalda explained.

Samples are taken indoors instead of testing tents

The new stage of the monitoring study takes place on 11–21 February, during which time 2,500 randomly-selected adult people from all over Estonia are tested. As antibody testing requires a venous blood sample to be taken, the former testing arrangements have been changed and it is no longer possible to take a test for the monitoring study in a drive-through testing tent. 

Participants in the study are asked to take two tests: nasopharyngeal swab for molecular testing and venous blood sample for the analysis of antibodies. The participants will get a call from the Medicum and Synlab testing centres to agree about the suitable time for testing at Synlab testing sites in county centres or in general hospitals. Separate testing points are set up there for those participating in the study. It takes about 10 minutes in total to take both tests. Disabled or elderly people and people with impaired mobility may order a testing team to test them at home.

The participants will get the test results within three days. The results will also be entered in the health information system. The research team will regularly interview all those who test positive for coronavirus in the study, to follow the course of the disease, over the next two to four weeks.

The coronavirus prevalence study is conducted by a broad-based research team of the University of Tartu in cooperation with Synlab, Medicum and Kantar Emor.
Further information on coronavirus antibody testing is available on coronavirus testing website. Information on coronavirus prevalence study is available on the University of Tartu website.

Further information: Ruth Kalda, Head of Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Tartu, +372 5698 5599,