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Study indicates 16% of UK dental professionals may have had COVID-19


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An ongoing University of Birmingham study has found that 15% of the saliva samples of dental professionals across the Midlands delivered seropositive results for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. (Image: AlessandroBiascioli/Shutterstock)
Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

Thu. 22. October 2020


BIRMINGHAM, UK: Across the UK, local lockdowns are proliferating as SARS-CoV-2 case numbers continue to increase. Though the initial nationwide lockdown ended back in June, data continues to to be gathered that shows just how widely SARS-CoV-2 spread during this time. A study conducted by University of Birmingham researchers has now found that a staggering 15% of dental professionals possessed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies by the time the lockdown had ended.

Prof. Iain Chapple, one of the world’s most renowned dental researchers, is leading the longitudinal study, which is analysing SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels in saliva samples from 1,530 dental surgeons, nurses, hygienists, therapists and receptionists across the Midlands region of England. Of those tested, approximately 230 delivered seropositive results for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

Since the study is still ongoing, Chapple was unable to share any further data with Dental Tribune International. He did confirm, however, that all study participants would be tested at least once more, around January 2021. “This is so that we can map what happens to their antibody levels, and also reassess exposure rates after teams returned to practice using enhanced personal protective equipment and infection prevention and control protocols,” he stated.

Why do SARS-CoV-2 antibodies matter?

As Dr David Denning, professor of infectious diseases in global health at the University of Manchester and chief medical adviser at DenScreen, told Dental Tribune International in a recent interview, if an individual tests positively for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, “then not only has he or she almost certainly had COVID-19, but he or she is now also at a non-infectious stage”. However, it is as yet unclear how long these antibody levels are maintained, and to what degree they protect the individual against reinfection.

Newly appointed Chair of the British Dental Association's Principal Executive Committee Dr Eddie Crouch—who contracted SARS-CoV-2 himself earlier this year—pleaded for UK dental professionals who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 to consider donating plasma. The NHS is currently conducting clinical trials regarding the efficacy of transfusing plasma rich in SARS-CoV-2 antibodies into individuals with weakened or compromised immune systems.

“COVID-19 is with us for the foreseeable future,” Crouch noted in a press release. “As a healthcare professional, I hope my own misfortune can now help patients in desperate need.”

“Dentists and their teams have gone over and above during the pandemic, manning urgent dental care centres, redeployed to the front line, and working all out to restore services. For those who have tested COVID-19-positive, these plasma donations can now save lives,” he added.

“I hope that any colleagues ready and willing to go that extra mile will consider putting themselves forward,” Crouch concluded.

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