The results of antibody screenings suggest that 55,000 Icelanders have been exposed to the virus, deCODE CEO Kári Stefánsson revealed in an educational conference yesterday. COVID-19 antibodies have been found in 0.9% of Icelanders who have not been quarantined or recovered from a confirmed infection, Visir reports.
deCODE previously estimated that around 22,000 individuals have been exposed to the coronavirus. But the revelation that around 0.9% of those tested have formed antibodies against the virus leads experts to believe that closer to 55,000 Icelanders have been exposed to COVID-19 so far.
Although more Icelanders than previously thought have formed an immune response to the virus, the proportion is still concerningly small. Kári warned that the results showed that “a very small minority has become immune to the virus, so if it flares up again we will have to respond quickly and very firmly.”
It’s worth noting that scientists are still unsure as to the effectiveness and duration of the protection provided by antibodies. Many believe that there is no guarantee of full immunity against a second infection.
Antibody testing has been carried out by the Icelandic public health service and deCODE genetics since early May. Kári claims that Iceland is ahead of the curve – “we have carried out many more screenings for antibodies than has been done by any nation.”
deCODE is collaborating with a laboratory in British Columbia to research the possibility of using antibodies as a potential COVID-19 treatment. It is still early days for the project, but Kari pledged to keep the public informed about its progress.
A full recording of the educational conference is available here.
Note – this article has been updated in the interest of clarity.
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