Our National COVID-19 Antibody Study

Epicentre News • 17 November 2020

Learn more about how South Africa is taking on COVID-19 in this exciting and groundbreaking antibody study.

Epicentre Health Research is in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the SA Department of Science and Innovation, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

What Do We Hope to Achieve?

COVID-19 is a new disease that has affected the lives of all South Africans. There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it has affected communities. Our primary aim is to:

  • Determine the extent of COVID-19 virus infection in the general population and age-specific infection prevalence, as determined by seropositivity (testing positive for COVID on an COVID-19 antibody test)
  • Determine the amount/percentage of asymptomatic or subclinical COVID-19 infections;
  • To determine the incidence rate of COVID-19 infections as determined by change from negative to positive serostatus in an embedded cohort of respondents in metropolitan municipalities (viz., Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay).

This information is important to guide in planning and decision-making for preventing future waves of the pandemic in South Africa, as well as to help ensure that health facilities are available to those who need it.

Our secondary aims are to:

  • Determine risk factors for COVID-19 virus infection
  • Estimate the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies in age and sex sub-groups
  • Assess antibody levels quantitatively and neutralising antibody concentrations for future comparisons with correlates of protection for herd immunity estimations
  • & to assess cytotoxic T-cell responses in a sub-group of respondents who have and do not have antibody responses, in order to identify what proportion of individuals may have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 but do not have detectable antibodies.

Where Are We Visiting?

This study will have two Cross-Sectional Surveys that will be conducted 8 weeks apart

  • First Survey:
    • We will be visiting 6,540 households in 436 communities nationally
  • Second survey
    • We will be visiting 6,540 households in 436 communities nationally
    • In the cities the same participants will be visited again
    • In other communities new houses in the same areas will be visited

In total 19,620 individuals will be asked to participate in each wave of the surveys

Why Is This Study Important

Since the beginning of 2020, the majority of countries in the world have been facing the global public health pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

To date, very little is known internationally and nationally about the magnitude and determinants of this epidemic; as prevalence is estimated from confirmed cases based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for patients who have mild to serious symptoms.

The proportion of asymptomatic cases in the general population is unknown and this study will shed crucial light on this important issue.

Our Prized Partners

The HSRC is committed to cutting-edge research that supports development nationally, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in Africa. Their commitment to the dissemination of that research demonstrates the remarkable and measurable impact of our work.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 with a mandate to improve the health of the country’s population, through research, development and technology transfer, so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. With a strategic objective to help strengthen the health systems of the country – in line with that of the Department of Health, the SAMRC constantly identifies the main causes of death in South Africa.

How Can You Help?

Our study will be visiting all 9 provinces, and we need you to tell everyone about Epicentre, so we can get as many randomly selected people to say yes as possible.

We need people to be on the look out for the Epicentre brand so when they see us it is not the first time they’ve heard about us. We need every South Africans support to beat COVID-19 and this is one easy way you can help us achieve that goal!

So tell your friends and family to tell everyone that:

  • Epicentre is knocking on people’s doors
  • and asking them for a small finger prick and to answer some important questions about COVID-19
  • They should say YES to helping us because they are directly helping all South Africans beat COVID-19!

Why Was Epicentre Chosen To Work In Our Communities

Epicentre has been conducting data collection successfully for researchers for 20 years. But what sets us apart from other data collectors is our extremely low participant refusal rate and our happiness to embrace new technology and innovation.

Our surveys are informing national policy on disease in Southern Africa such as

  • South Africa’s National Strategic plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022&

& Informing international public health responses by

  • the Centre for Disease Control (CDC),
  • the World Health Organization (WHO),
  • & President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)