Objectives: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the pulmonary disease coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19, which has challenged health care facilities worldwide. The sustainability of health care systems is largely reliant on the health status of their health care workers (HCW). This study aimed to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus and specific antibodies among HCWs in a German hospital as a model system for the potential spread of the pandemic.
Methods: Between March and June 2020, we used a combination of RT-PCR testing to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies among HCWs in a German hospital based on repetitive oropharyngeal swabs (OPSs) and blood samples.
Results: In total, 871/1081 employees participated in this prospective longitudinal study. During the study period of 9 weeks, 5329 OPSs and 2136 blood samples were analyzed. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in three participants (0.34%). Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies were detected in 38 (4.36%) participants.
Conclusion: Our study determined a low prevalence of COVID-19 in HCW, which may reflect the effectiveness of hygiene protocols. However, it could also indicate a low prevalence of SARS CoV-2 in hospital employees. Our study protocol may serve as an instructive example for future pandemic containment protocols in hospitals.