First results of Irish Covid-19 antibody study have been published

21 Aug 2020

Image: © Victor Moussa/

Based on the preliminary findings of the first Irish antibody test, it’s estimated that approximately 59,500 people could have had Covid-19.

The HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) have released the preliminary findings for the much-anticipated ‘Study to investigate Covid-19 infection in people living in Ireland’ (Scopi) looking at antibodies for the coronavirus.

A total of 1,733 people aged between 12 and 69 out of a potential 5,000 took part in the test in the counties of Dublin and Sligo. Dublin was chosen as it is the county with the highest number of known cases, while Sligo has one of the lowest.

The findings showed that the proportion of the population with antibodies to the coronavirus was estimated at 1.7pc overall, with 3.1pc in Dublin and 0.6pc in Sligo. There was no significant difference between age groups or between men and women.

Based on these findings, the HSE estimated that 59,500 in Ireland may have been infected with the coronavirus, three times higher than the number of confirmed cases in the 12-69 age group in Ireland.

Other findings showed 73pc of participants with antibodies reported one or more symptoms in line with those linked with Covid-19, such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell or loss of sense of taste.

Majority of Ireland not infected

33pc of people reported a loss of smell or taste, while 27pc did not report any symptoms. Commenting on the findings, Scopi’s principal investigator, Dr Derval Igoe, said it was not surprising to see a low national prevalence of antibodies.

“Other countries in Europe, such as Spain and Italy, where there has been a much more intense epidemic, have reported national seroprevalence estimates of 5pc and 2.5pc respectively,” she said.

“This means that the vast majority of people living in Ireland had not been infected with [the coronavirus] by the time of the study. As a society, we need to continue with our public health measures, including physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic