Antibody Testing Taken on the Road


The COVCO-Basel study is assessing the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the population of the cantons Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. A bus now brings the study team closer to the participants and allows antibody testing on site in their villages. The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) is in the lead of the COVCO-Basel study that is part of the Swiss research programme Corona Immunitas.

A bus brings the study team closer to the participants allowing antibody testing on site. (Photo: Swiss TPH)

Over 600 people have been tested for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 at Swiss TPH. In a bus equipped as a mobile test centre, the COVCO-Basel team can now also carry out blood and saliva samples from study participants on site. “The bus allows us to reach people that are less mobile or that in the current situation, facing increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases, do not want to travel to our study centre in Basel. By reaching these people, the study becomes more representative of the population,” said Nicole Probst-Hensch, study lead and Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Swiss TPH.

Mobile test centre in the villages

50 appointments with the mobile test centre are already planned in Basel-Landschaft. The bus made its first stop in the municipality of Frenkendorf last week. A total number of 1,200 participants from different age groups will be tested for the study at the Swiss TPH study centre in Basel or with the mobile test centre. 

Effects on mental health

In addition to the seroprevalence study, the researchers at COVCO-Basel are also investigating the effects of the corona pandemic on the mental state of the population in the Basel area by conducting a digital follow-up. "In addition to the virus itself, the effects of the corona pandemic can also have a major impact on our health - especially on our mental health," said Probst-Hensch. Preliminary results show that the study participants feel lonelier and more isolated today than before the pandemic.

Part of a nationwide research programme

COVCO-Basel is part of the nationwide research programme Corona Immunitas to investigate the extent and duration of immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in the Swiss population. 11 universities and research institutes from all over Switzerland participate in this research programme. All regions including Basel send the anonymised samples to the Vaud Central University Hospital for analysis. “This standardised antibody test across sites guarantees comparability across the country. Preliminary results show that the percentage of participants who have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2 tends to be lower in the Basel region than in the French-speaking cantons or in Ticino,” said Nicole Probst-Hensch.

Corona Immunitas also provides the regions with buses. Over the next few weeks, six buses will be operating as mobile test centres in different parts of Switzerland.

COVCO-Basel is funded by the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft and by Corona Immunitas. The buses are sponsored by Zurich Insurance.

Nicole Probst-Hensch

Nicole Probst-Hensch

Professor, PhD (Pharmacy and Epidemiology), MPH

Head of Department, Group Leader, Head of Unit

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