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Tumour patients and healthcare professionals: hardly any antibodies to SARS-CoV-2

researcher in lab © Medical University of Vienna, Chrisitan Houdek

However, the at-risk population also includes cancer patients in oncology units. In a study implemented by the Medical University of Vienna and Vienna General Hospital showed that only a very small number of doctors, nurses and patients have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The study was carried out by a research team led by Thorsten Füreder of the Division of Oncology of the Department of Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna and published in the leading journal Esmo Open.
Oncologist Thomas Füreder conducted a study to test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, in order to determine the level of immunity among healthcare professionals and cancer patients resulting from prior (asymptomatic) COVID-19 infections. "Our initial question was whether staff and patients had already developed antibodies to the coronavirus, that is to say had already come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 and might even have been infectious themselves," the researcher said. The Department of Laboratory Medicine of the Medical University of Vienna and Vienna General Hospital used a validated test method approved in the USA to conduct the study.
All study participants also had to complete a structured questionnaire about basic demographic parameters, personal travel history and presence of any COVID-19-associated symptoms. A total of 146 volunteers were included in the study.
Contrary to the researchers' expectations, the results showed that only two out of a total of 84 patients and only two out of the 62 staff from the Division of Oncology had antibodies to COVID-19. Therefore, this demonstrates that a majority of patients and staff at the Division of Oncology are not immune to COVID-19 or have not already had it. Specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were only found in people who had had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. "Our study underlines the fact that all the measures taken within the division, such as mask-wearing, regular testing of patients and staff and access restrictions, have protected the patients and medical staff," Thomas Fürder concludes.

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