Coronavirus antibody study finds 3.4 million infections in England

A massive antibody study found that 3.4 million people in England, or 6% of the country’s population, were already infected with coronavirus by late July.

More than 100,000 people pricked their fingers at home between June 20 and July 13 to test for antibodies, according to a government announcement.

“Large scale antibody surveillance studies are crucial to helping us understand how the virus has spread across the country and whether there are specific groups who are more vulnerable, as we continue our work to drive down the spread of the disease,” said Edward Argar, health minister.

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The government announced the results of the study on Thursday, and said Imperial College London had published the findings.

“Using the finger-prick tests suitable for large scale home testing has given us clearest insight yet into the spread of the virus in the country and who has been at greatest risk,” Prof. Graham Cooke, NIHR Research Professor of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, said in a university release.

COVID-19 antibodies were more prevalent in London than anywhere else in the country, with the study showing a 13% antibody prevalence rate compared to the lowest rates in the South West of England at nearly 3%. Also, antibodies were detected in nearly all people (at 96%) who had a positive swab test.

COVID-19 antibodies were more prevalent in London than anywhere else in the country. (iStock)

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Antibody rates were also highest among those working in care homes at 16% and health care at 11.7%. Black and Asian people had a higher prevalence of antibodies than White people, at 17% and 12%, respectively, compared to 5%.

The more occupants in a household, the higher the antibody rates, with households of seven or more occupants showing a 13% antibody rate.

Also, younger people aged 18 to 24 had the highest antibody rates at 7.9%, and those aged 65 to 74 had the lowest, at 3.2%. And, those who had severe symptoms from COVID-19 showed a much higher antibody rate than asymptomatic individuals, at 29% to 14%, respectively, according to the university release.

The government said it’s unknown whether antibodies offer immunity to the virus, and held that the study marks the world’s largest surveillance study for COVID-19 antibodies to date.

The study will be repeated in the fall, testing 200,000 people.

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