Coronavirus: Study on Covid-19 immunity in Abu Dhabi under way

Research aims to learn more about the virus' effect in the emirate and inform ways to curb its spread

A study into the prevalence of coronavirus immunity among Emiratis and residents is under way in Abu Dhabi.

By taking random samples from across the emirate, the study aims to learn more about Covid-19 immunity and how the virus affected people in Abu Dhabi. The results will be used to inform policies to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Carried out by the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), and Mubadala's National Reference Laboratory, the study began on July 19 and is due to end on August 16.

Medics have begun collecting samples from residents and Emiratis to run serology tests, which check for antibodies in the blood.

This test tells medics if the individual has previously had the virus, regardless of how severe the symptoms were.

The data from the new study will indicate to researchers how widespread Covid-19 infections were in Abu Dhabi and how what percentage of the capital's population were immune to the respiratory disease at the time of testing.

Officials said the information would be particularly useful when planning the "next stage" of the virus.

Researchers also hope to learn what percentage of the emirate's population had the virus but were asymptomatic.

The main test currently used to check for a Covid-19 infection in screening centres is PCR.

The PCR test detects whether the virus is present in a specific sample, whereas the serology test can tell if a person has ever had Covid-19.

The advantage of the serology test is that it is faster as results can be processed within hours. It also boasts a 99.5 per cent accuracy rate.

However the drawback is that it is currently unclear if people who recover from the coronavirus are immune from being reinfected. Local health authorities have previously said there have been no cases of reinfection in the UAE.

The National Reference Laboratory rolled out serology tests in June. At the time, Dr Basel Altrabulsi, chief medical officer of the lab, run by Mubadala Healthcare, described the tests as “a powerful tool” to help front-line workers.

“When you go back and design a return of work policy one of the first thing you do is risk assessments. If you have serology tests then it will tell you the exposure rates of people. Now you will have an educated guess when people are returning to work by identifying the workforce that could potentially be immune.”

For example, if tests indicate that the majority of the workforce has not had the virus, employers will need to ensure extra measures are in place to avoid staff being infected, particularly medical and vital sector workers.

The new study is the first of its kind in the UAE.

To date, the UAE has recorded 59,546 total cases of Covid-19, 52,905 recoveries and 347 deaths.

Published: July 28, 2020 10:53 PM

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