On Monday, May 11, family doctors in Saare County (Saaremaa) and Õismäe, a residential district of Tallinn, are to invite volunteers to a coronavirus antibody study organized by the University of Tartu.
The study, called KoroSero-EST, will see a random sample of 1,080 participants from both regions tested for the presence of antibodies in the bloodstream, to assess the number of people exposed to the virus, including those who are symptomless.
A nationwide survey is also planned after this, the University of Tartu says.
Nowhere in the world, Including Estonia, is it exactly known how many people have been infected with COVID-19. For this reason, scientists at the University of Tartu, in cooperation with the family doctors in Saare County and Õismäe, will start a seroepidemiological study lasting through to July, whose aim is to determine the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in the organism.
The antibodies will point to whether the individual has had coronavirus at any point, or not.
The study is to be run by Piia Jõgi, a lecturer in pediatrics at the University of Tartu, who is focused on the study of infectious diseases. Jõgi says there are large numbers of people who don´t know they have been infected by the coronavirus.
"Determining the antibodies will help to identify who has been infected without symptoms. Only this way, we will get the best overview of how many people have been exposed to the disease," Jõgi admitted.
Study areas and sample
Saare County is involved in the study because the spread of the COVID-19 was the most extensive in Estonia there. The other area, Õismäe, in Tallinn, was chosen on a random basis, and the number of infected people has been lower so far.
Comparing the two study results is important to make balanced conclusions and plan the nationwide study.
Both of the areas have 1,080 people that are being studied. The study draws in people from all age groups, from newborns to those of 100 years of age, on a random basis.
120 people from every ten-year age gap have been invited to participate, with the exception of 80-100-year-olds, where 120 people are being asked to participate altogether.
Participating in the study is voluntary. "We are hoping for people´s cooperation, because the faster we can get 1,080 subjects from both of the areas, the faster we will get a preliminary overview of the spread of the coronavirus, and we can start to plan the nationwide study. The more we know about the virus, the easier it is to fight against it," Jõgi said,
The government supported the study with €300, 000.
The University of Tartu is also conducting a coronavirus prevalence study, during which the spread of the coronavirus and the course of the epidemic in Estonia is being assessed on the basis of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) study of a sample taken from the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat, behind the nose-ed.). On the basis of a random sample, 16,000–20,000 people across Estonia are to be interviewed and tested, in order to provide the country with evidence-based data for a phasing-out strategy.
Editor: Roberta Vaino