Representational image of nurse in protective gear | Commons
Representational image of nurse in protective gear | Commons
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New Delhi: A British study has found high prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies in nurses and doctors dealing with cancer patients, highlighting the chances of them passing on the infection to vulnerable patients.

Conducted on 434 healthcare workers, the study titled “SARS-CoV-2 antigen and antibody prevalence among UK staff working with cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic” found higher prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies among nurses and doctors treating cancer patients.

It notes that these healthcare workers had contracted Covid-19 infection at some point during their duties at hospital but still kept on dealing with cancer patients.

The study has been published on MedRxiv, a portal for preprints or preliminary reports that have not been peer-reviewed.

MedRxiv, read as med-archive, was founded by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), a not-for-profit research institution, along with Yale University, and the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal (BMJ).

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The British study

The study was conducted by 10 researchers based in the United Kingdom (UK), mostly working at Cambridge University Hospitals.

The researchers worked on 434 participants, of whom around 60 per cent were nurses followed by 20 per cent doctors, while around 10 per cent were radiographers and the rest administrators.

The study, done to assess the safety of patients facing oncology department staff during the pandemic, has emphasised the need for routinely testing staff dealing with cancer patients.

“The high prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG sero-positivity in oncology nurses… supports regular antigen and antibody testing in this staff group for SARS-CoV-2 as part of routine patient care prior to availability of a vaccine,” the study said.

IgG, also known as immunoglobulin G, is a type of antibody.

The findings

The study found that nurses and doctors had higher prevalence trends of sero-positivity compared to administrators and radiographers.

Of the 434 participants, 82 per cent were women of the median age of 40 years.

These participants were tested through two tests — nasopharyngeal swab Covid antigen test by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and blood tests for Covid antibody done using Luminex test. The two tests were conducted 28 days apart in June and July 2020.

“All were PCR-negative at both study day 1 and 28,” the report said.

Based on the other blood test done on day 1, almost 21 per cent of nurses and 17 per cent of doctors showed presence of antibodies followed by 13.6 per cent of antibody prevalence in administrators and 9 per cent in radiographers.

Of the all workers who reported positive for antibodies, 38 per cent had previously reported symptoms that were suggestive of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the study claimed.

As many as 400 participants were re-tested on day 28. “13.3 per cent were Luminex sero-positive of whom 92.5 per cent were previously positive and 7.5 per cent newly positive,” the study concluded.

Nurses had the highest seroprevalence trend among staff groups.

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