Exclusive: in a Navy study, 60% of voluntary carriers have anti-coronavirus antibodies

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy investigation into the spread of the coronavirus on board the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt found that around 60% of the estimated 400 sailors tested had antibodies to the virus, three officials told Reuters on Monday Americans.The 4,800 sailors of the aircraft carrier Roosevelt have previously tested for the coronavirus and about a quarter have tested positive. But in April, the Navy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began testing for the presence of specific antibodies.

If sailors who have not tested positive show antibodies, this may suggest a higher infection rate than previously known. Similar tests in Italy and elsewhere have indicated the presence of antibodies in people who have not been tested before, which gives a more precise idea of ​​the spread of the virus.

However, the serological test could also show that people who test positive for the coronavirus do not carry antibodies later, which could raise questions about their immunity to the virus.

The spread of the virus on the ship triggered a series of events which led to the dismissal of the captain of the ship after the leak of a letter he wrote calling on the Navy to put in place stricter measures to protect the crew.

A sailor on the ship died from coronavirus and several others were hospitalized. But overall, seafarers, who are generally healthier and younger, are doing better than the general population and most have no symptoms.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that only about 400 volunteers participated in the serological test, less than the 1,000 volunteers sought.

They added that an official announcement was expected as early as Tuesday.

While the results could indicate a much higher presence of the coronavirus, one of the navy’s officials said it may not have been due to the way the study was conducted.

“The investigation into the epidemic did not include the entire crew, and the results of this study cannot be generalized to the entire crew,” said the official.

FILE PHOTO: US Navy aircraft carrier The USS Theodore Roosevelt leaves after an extended visit amid an epidemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), from the port of Apra, Guam on May 21, 2020 Photo taken on May 21, 2020. US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier / Document to be distributed via REUTERS

The results of the serological tests follow Roosevelt data at the beginning of April, which showed that 60% of the sailors tested positive for the virus itself – and not for the antibodies – were in fact not symptomatic.

Medical groups, such as the American Medical Association, have warned that serological tests can lead to false positives.

In addition to the serological tests, volunteers were also re-buffered for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and were asked to respond to a brief survey.

Report by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Grant McCool and Aurora Ellis

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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