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Welte: Half of SA's population has likely had Covid-19 based on antibody study

16 February 2021 4:40 PM
Tags:
blood donors
antibody test
Prof Alex Welte
Covid-19 antibody study
Covid-19 South Africa

Researcher and epidemiologist Professor Alex Welte extrapolates that more than half of SA's population has likely been infected with Covid-19.

Welte has based his estimation on the findings of a Covid-19 antibody study that he co-authored in collaboration with the National Blood Service.

The study, titled Prevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among blood donors in Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Free State provinces of South Africa in January 2021, was published last week and can be found here.

The study suggests that a large percentage of South Africa's population has likely already been infected with Covid-19.

The findings also show that there are significant differences between the prevalence of Covid-19 when comparing racial groups.

The researchers conducted Covid-19 antibody tests on samples taken from blood donors across four provinces between 7 and 25 January.

A total of 4,858 blood donors were tested in the Eastern Cape, Nothern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.

Covid-19 antibodies are present only if someone has previously been infected with the virus, Prof Welte explains.

Researchers extrapolated the results and they estimated that at least 60% of people in the Eastern Cape have been infected with Covid-19 since the epidemic started.

Furthermore, Prof Welte estimates that roughly 30 million people in South Africa may have already had the virus, based on the study findings.

He tells CapeTalk that there is also a striking difference in the prevalence of Covid-19 between races, but no significant differences across age or sex.

There are certainly differences between the provinces and - this being South African, nobody is entirely shocked - there were very significant differences by race.

Prof Alex Welte, Epidemiologist and Research Professor - SACEMA at Stellenbosch University

One can only imagine this has to do with housing conditions, low-rise, high-density housing makes it difficult for people to observe [physical] distsancing.

Prof Alex Welte, Epidemiologist and Research Professor - SACEMA at Stellenbosch University

We see that amongst whites, who mainly on average live in spaced-out urban homes, the prevalence of anti-bodies was fairly low, below 20% for the most part and uniformly above 50% amongst black donors.

Prof Alex Welte, Epidemiologist and Research Professor - SACEMA at Stellenbosch University

If you administer this test in our current context, it's a pretty good way of classifying somebody as having at some point had Covid-19 infection or not.

Prof Alex Welte, Epidemiologist and Research Professor - SACEMA at Stellenbosch University

It was decided some time ago that... it was a good idea to survey blood donors for Covid-19 anti-bodies.

Prof Alex Welte, Epidemiologist and Research Professor - SACEMA at Stellenbosch University

Listen to the discussion on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:




16 February 2021 4:40 PM
Tags:
blood donors
antibody test
Prof Alex Welte
Covid-19 antibody study
Covid-19 South Africa

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