18 crore Indians may already be protected against COVID-19: ThyrocareLast updated on Jul 22, 2020, 12:22 am
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc around the world, with India being one of the worst-hit countries.
Every day, the number of new infections hits a new record, raising major concerns and fears.
Now, amid all this, data from private lab chain Thyrocare is raising hopes, indicating that crores of Indians may already be immune to the coronavirus.
Over 60,000 antibody tests conducted by Thyrocare
With the approval of the Indian Council for Medical Research, Thyrocare conducted 60,000 antibody tests across 600 pin codes in different parts of India.
Out of these, it recently released data for 53,000 samples, showing that about 15% of people have already developed antibodies against the novel coronavirus — after getting infected and recovering from it, without major symptoms, sometime in the past.
What exactly are antibodies?
Antibodies are the proteins that the human immune system produces (secreted by cells called B lymphocytes) to fight off dangerous viruses like the novel coronavirus. They are generated in response to a new infection and remain in the blood to prevent re-infection, thereby giving immunity.
This means 18 crore are already immunized
In a series of tweets revealing the test data, Dr. Arokiaswamy Velumani, the Founder and MD of Thyrocare, noted that their results may have a variation of plus/minus 3%.
However, he said, these findings indicate that 15% of India, or about 18 crore people could have silent antibody-based protection from COVID-19.
"Too good to believe," Velumani tweeted. "Hope, kits don't have high false positives."
Here are Dr. Velumani's estimates
My #Guesstimate after 60,000 AB testing:— Antibody Velumani. (@velumania) July 19, 2020
15% globally have had COVID exposure and remain immunized.
In India only 1/10,000 exposed die, high immunity.
In western rich countries 1/500 exposed die, poor immunity.
Data says after March 2021, vaccine will have less value. https://t.co/PuYu6zK5F7
These regions had the highest antibody positivity
According to the data from the test, conducted over 20 odd days, Bhiwandi, in Thane, had the highest antibody positivity (47.1% samples), followed by Peenya Dasarahalli area in Bengaluru (44.1%), Anand Vihar in New Delhi (37.7%), Hyderabad's Jubilee area (37.3%), Dahisar in Thane (36.7%) and Ghatkopkar West, Mumbai (36.7%).
Notably, most of these regions have been seeing a surging number of infections lately.
Similarly, lowest antibody positivity came from regions with fewer infections
The regions that had the lowest antibody positivity also had fewer confirmed cases.
This included Alibag in Mumbai, (0.7%), Vidyanagar in Bellary (0.9%), Ambethan in Pune (1.5%), Baghthala in Rewari (1.9%) and Raja Annamalaipuram in Chennai (3.3%).
It must be noted that many of these cities are hard-hit by COVID-19 but these areas, in particular, have reported fewer infections.
Antibody tests can also answer more important questions
Further, along with painting the picture of the immune population, these antibody tests could also help identify front-line workers who are more immune to COVID-19 and can work safely around critical cases and in other public environments.
It could also find out donors for plasma therapy and answer bigger questions like how long the immune response lasts in recovered patients.