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Why your negative antibody test might be wrong The true number of people who've had the virus could be double current estimates

Getting tested for the old corona. Photo by SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images

Getting tested for the old corona. Photo by SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images


August 4, 2020   5 mins

There was a mini-epidemic around our way, back in February. When it was clear that the coronavirus was coming to Britain, everyone seemed to have it. Friends, family, parents at the school gate. I started to wonder if I’d had it, after I coughed a few times after going for a run in the cold air. One person I know even convinced themselves that they’d had it in, I think, November, which means there’s about a one-in-10 chance they’d have caught it directly from the bat.

Obviously, most of them will have been misdiagnoses, if you can call them “diagnoses” at all. Everyone was paranoid, and developing a bit of short-term hypochondria; and people don’t always have a good sense of the actual risk. (I remember, early on, seeing someone move seats on the Tube when someone else sneezed; back then, it was still hundreds of times more likely that the sneezer just had a cold.)

But a few seemed very real. People with dry coughs and fever and anosmia, being knocked out for quite some time — the real core symptoms. Testing wasn’t really up and running then (or for several months afterward), so unless they were hospitalised they weren’t tested, but it seemed pretty clear.

And then it got weird, because antibody testing became available, and several of these people with the core symptoms — honestly, I know of at least three, either directly or at one remove — tested negative. One of them had the “long Covid” symptoms, the post-viral fatigue and weakness that seems to last for months and is so reminiscent of ME/CFS. But their serology test was negative.

That person, incidentally, went onto a Facebook forum for long-lasting Covid sufferers to mention that — and had hundreds of replies from people saying similar things. There seem to be a lot of people who think they’ve had Covid, and who have had negative antibody tests. A decent percentage of them have had the proper core symptoms, or even the long Covid aftermath, and their tests, too, have come back negative.

Obviously some large number of these people will have been wrong. But a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a thing about antibodies and long-term immunity, and the concerns that vaccines wouldn’t work because the number of antibodies in patients’ bloodstream declined quite quickly.

The piece was largely saying that vaccines probably would work, but one acquaintance who’d had long Covid symptoms but a negative serology test got in touch, saying that they found it reassuring. That was because it suggested that a lot of people might have had the disease, but tested negative for antibodies, and a lot of the Covid sufferers, especially, are nervous about antibody tests; after all if they come back negative, it might make them look as if they’re malingerers or hypochondriacs.

A new paper out in preprint from the King’s College London team behind the Covid Symptom-Study app adds a bit more colour to this picture. It looked at 431 people who were already being tracked through a pre-existing study. They were followed with the Symptom-Study app from way back in March.

It found, essentially, that lots of people who had the really core symptoms, and even some who were swab-tested at the time, later tested negative for antibodies. It also found that lots of people who did test positive for Covid, either by swab or antibody, didn’t have all of the core symptoms.

“Of people who had clear symptoms associated with coronavirus,” says Dr Claire Steves, a KCL geriatrician who worked on the study, “about 50% of them didn’t have antibodies.” Not all of those people were swab-tested at the time, she says, “because testing wasn’t widely available,” but other studies have found that lots of people who were swab-tested then tested negative for antibodies.

This is all part of an increasingly complicated picture of the disease, says Dr Tim Spector, a colleague of Steves’ and the lead academic behind the COVID Sympton Study app. In an earlier study, Steves and Spector found that you could divide up Covid cases into roughly six categories, some with roughly flu-like conditions, others with mainly gastrointestinal or even neurological symptoms. 

He speculates that the immune system may respond differently to each kind, and that having a strong antibody response may not be all that good a thing. “Clearly all our immune systems are working in very different ways,” he says. “We think patients with long duration symptoms have some failure to clear the virus properly and it is stuck somewhere in the nervous system or in the gut.” Other immune responses, such as T-cells, may be going on. The team is working to see if patients do have detectable T-cell responses, but the tests for that are time-consuming and expensive and can’t be done via home testing — you need live T-cells from fresh blood — so it is not something that could be rolled out at scale.

Fundamentally, both Spector and Steves say, even if someone had a negative antibody test, you can’t rule out that they had the disease: “They’re in good company,” says Spector. “About 50% of people with classic symptoms didn’t have the antibodies.” The more severe the disease, the less likely a negative response is — partly, Steves and Spector point out, because very severe disease appears to be at least partially caused by the antibody response. But it absolutely makes sense that many people would have the disease and then appear negative in the serology tests.

There’s a bigger picture here, which is that if lots of people have the disease and then test negative, it changes our understanding of how widely the disease has spread in the population. Back in early July there were some shocking papers that came out, notably one from Spain which despite an awful outbreak found that only 5% of the population had a positive antibody response. It really set the scale of the problem into perspective, and how far from herd immunity we were.

These KCL findings — if they’re confirmed, I should say, because it’s still a relatively small study and because the sample might not be entirely representative — might shift that somewhat. Spector and Steves say that it could be that serology tests miss up to 50% of real cases. If that’s true, then up to about 10% of Spanish people may have had the disease — and perhaps more relevantly to most readers of this, up to 12% of British people, double the 6% estimate from the ONS. That’s an upper bound, and “it’s probably more likely in the middle”, says Steves. So it’s good news, but only cautiously so; it doesn’t give much support to wilder ideas that half of the population will have had it. Spector still puts the infection fatality rate at around 1%.

It should, however, be reassuring for the — probably quite large — group of people who were sure they had had the disease, and then tested negative when the antibody testing became available. There will also be a large cohort of people who genuinely had it, who suffered through quite severe symptoms or even long Covid, and were then told they never had it. That said, I’m sure that most of the north London hypochondriacs who convinced themselves they had the ‘rona back in February and March were wrong.


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

Everything that has turned up in the research literature seems to confirm my early expectations.
1. This is a weak pathogen, not inducing or requiring much or any humoral (adaptive) immune response from a healthy individual.

2. A strong humoral response is an indication of a less effective immune response and more difficulty in eliminating the infection — i.e. a longer and more protracted recovery with more severe symptoms and complications.

3. Infection in lower respiratory tract will be quickly eliminated by innate immune response with adequate youth and/or tissue health and/or vit D adequacy. Symptoms will be mild or absent in this condition.

4. Conversely. if the immune response falls behind in a protracted struggle, portions of it may become overstressed and/or depleted. Vit D may be exhausted, for example, disabling much of the innate immune response. This results in “cytokine storm” and so forth.

5. T cell memory is guaranteed after any infection and recovery. B cell memory is not. This is NOT flu.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago

Spot on. One of the lessons of 1918 was that fatigue was a factor in poor outcomes – especially in the youthful victims.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes. The whole thing is a giant racket – a scamdemic. And for this we are destroying entire economies, careers and educations. It has been obvious to some of for many years that the West has lost its collective mind. This virus has only exposed the fact for all to see.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The Gotterdammerung moment for the West. The triumph of the shriekers and bedwetters.

I was hoping to see the Great China War, but not now, we have already lost.

Consummatum est.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

There is increasing evidence that T-cell response provides immunity for at least 60% of the population and might even be 80%. The number keeps growing. Blood samples from years ago also show a reaction to SARS-2. Then there’s the neural scientists analysis of the data which implies at least 50-60% of a population are immune (the dark matter in the data as they call it). With T-cell immunity there won’t be any antibodies. All the data to date (and there is a massive quantity) implies that the virus declines when the number of infected is between 10-20% of the population. So this fits right in with herd immunity being achieved when enough of the 20% of non T-Cell immune people catch the disease.

Now for the very dangerous bit that has me thinking. The implication is that the frontline defense is T-cell and the last line of defense is anti bodies BUT when the anti body response goes into overdrive you end up with …….the symptoms people die from! So, what happens if you vaccinate people who actually have T-Cell immunity? Presumably injecting the vaccine directly into the blood is bypassing T-cells and forcing an anti body response..Ooops.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

There’s some encouraging data around T-Cell response but a lot we still don’t know.

We don’t know how evenly distributed prevalence is locally or globally and we don’t know to what extent they confer immunity. Whilst T-Cell response has been cited as a possible explanation for infections dropping off in populations with only 20% positive antibody tests, some specific populations have been recorded as having reached antibody levels of 60%.

Did these populations not have the correct T-Cell response? Or was the response present and just overwhelmed in these cases? The latter could be possible as the highest antibody rates have been recorded in prisons and urban slums, high density populations where exposure to the virus is likely to have been greater and more prolonged but we still don’t have enough data to know for sure.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Spot on, top question. Make sure you are at the back of the queue when the vaccine arrives.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

If this virus was half as bad as the government/medical advisors tells us it is the bodies’d be piling up on the streets by now because there’d be no one left to bury them. CV19 rushed through those on the ‘numbers almost up list’ and either skipped by completely or simply not affected the vast majority of the rest of population. In my humble opinion.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

Well I keep saying, let’s backup from the myriad directions science is going in without getting a definite answer and concentrate on the ultimate measure : death. If you compare Covid deaths to all deaths how does it compare? If the comparison suggests it is no worse than a bad flu season then put in place measures for a bad flu season! What did we do in 2017-2018 bad flu season that resulted in 50,100 excess deaths? Oh that’s right we did not wear masks, everything was open, no social distancing etc etc. Hmmm

Problem is that might actually have nothing to do with controlling a virus but controlling people and/or handing billions of taxpayers money to big pharma. In which case nothing will be done until we are forcefully vaccinated.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

You’re comparing COVID19 deaths with government interventions (like lockdowns) to flu deaths without. The implication is that without those interventions, there would have been more deaths.

> Problem is that might actually have nothing to do with controlling a virus but controlling people and/or handing billions of taxpayers money to big pharma. In which case nothing will be done until we are forcefully vaccinated.

Ah, the Bavarian Illuminati again, those cunning fellows. Have you considered investing in a tin foil hat to stop the mind control rays?

CYRIL NAMMOCK
CYRIL NAMMOCK
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

You nasty little smartarse.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  CYRIL NAMMOCK

Oo-er! Tin foil hat on a bit tight today?

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

It is comparable to the worst of flus. It’s a bad one for sure. But mathematically speaking, to express “how bad is it”, we need to apply statistical analysis.
Are the deaths 1 standard deviation away?
Are the deaths 50% worse than average flu season?
Are the deaths 10% worse than the worse flu season?

Do we run to the store and buy loads of stuff if for a 10% discount?

The media have monstrously failed at presenting perspective, and are constantly using catastrophic language about the disease, when the only “catastrophe” is the governmental lockdown polity.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

> If this virus was half as bad as the government/medical advisors tells us it is the bodies’d be piling up on the streets by now because there’d be no one left to bury them.

This is simply wrong: in Chris Whitty’s lecture to Gresham College (posted to YouTube on 30th April, I won’t link to it as links seem to mean your comment gets stuck in moderation forever), he says “at an individual level the chances of dying of coronavirus are low” (slide at 13:14) and gives case fatality rates of less than 1% for people under 50 (slide at 14:44). Infection fatality rates must be lower.

The problem is not that bodies would pile up in the streets, but that a small percentage of a UK population of 66 million is still an unacceptable number of deaths.

> In my humble opinion.

Where’s your humble evidence?

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

It is not necessary to understand precisely how the human immune system deals with this virus. It will and it does, as with any virus — otherwise the species would be potentially wiped out. That is how evolution works.
Obsessing over how many in the population have antibodies is a waste of time. This is the principle of “everything looks like a nail when the only tool is a hammer”. We have a widely deployed platform for commerical testing for a/b’s due to flu, where this is appropriate. It is NOT approrpiate for SARS-2.

Although I am skeptical of the likely success of vaccines, I do not understand the media and government obsession with the longevity or persistence of humoral response. Even a few months could be quite effective. People can get a shot every year, just as with flu, albeit for a different reason.

Any virus-specific antibody response will focus the rest of the lymphocytes on the pathogen, making the total immune response much more efficient, effective and quick.

IMO the real worry about vaccines should be that many of those vaccinated will fair more poorly as a result. This is particularly likely to be the case with SARS-CoV-2 IMO, due to its properties. It has been the case with many virus/vaccine combinations historically too — this is a well observed phneomenon, albeit not well understood.

The endogenous/intrinsic human immune response does NOT include a significant humoral response to SARS-2, as it does to flu, in the healthy. That should be a warning that artificial overstimulation of the B cells may backfire, rather than help, in at least some individuals.

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago

This is what probably happened in the area around Bergamo, the epicentre of epidemic in Italy.
Few weeks before the explosion there was a rush from locale people to vaccine, due to some meningitis cases.
Unfortunately there are no serious investigations as far as I know, because the few doctors who suggested it were immediately labelled as no vax nuts, even if they were not

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago

We also need some more research into cross strain specificity and resistance. It could be that encounters with other coronaviruses (which cause colds) confers resistance (I hesitate to say “immunity”) to Covid-19. In other words, having had a cold previously may make a Covid-19 encounter less serious than for someone whose immune system was naive.

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

The expression “novel coronavirus” was such a scam. I hope there’s a time of reckoning for this nonsense.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

I don’t think the word “novel” was a complete scam, but I do think that cross strain immunity (or better, resistance) was under-estimated. The unfocussed general lockdown response was (at best) unwise. We already knew the demographic morbidity profile. The failure to protect care homes is a scandal.

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago

Yes, the immunity for Coronaviruses is short lived, this is why we keep catching colds, over and over and over again, and can explain to some degree lack of antibodies.

But the talk about “long” and “core” Covid symptoms is just ridiculous. I’ve had the flu five times in the last two decades, and all those symptoms exist as well with strong bouts of flu. None are specific to Covid, not even breathing difficulties leading to hospitalisation.

It’s basically wishful thinking. People WANT to have had it. It shows survivorship, and that’s fundamentally desirable to the human mind.

One year, I had two flu, back to back, I was out of circulation for nearly four months. That happened one month after I’d had my only ever flu shot.

The trouble with this virus, is that it’s like all the other Influenza Like Illnesses (ILI) except for a slightly higher lethality rate.

We need to protect the vulnerable, and let the rest of society move on. This nonsense has lasted way too long.

Richard Turner
Richard Turner
3 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Some back of an envelope analysis: I suspect 0.1% of the Pop will die from C19. This about 60,000 people. Average age of death from C19 75 years old. Average life expectancy say 83 years. Years lost 8 per person on average. Investment value of life(used for investment in heath care, life saving measures on roads etc) £30-50,000 a year. Value of lives lost £14-24Billion. Total cost to UK economy to date estimated at £290Billion. Go Figure!

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

Having read both the article and the comments, it appears that there is no scientific agreement on the virus.
Can I then extrapolate that idea to the actions of the Government when they say they are following the science?
Should I then follow the advice of government scientists, or is the government following the wrong scientists?

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago

I remember well the days when there was a bunch of scientists claiming smoking nicotine was absolutely fine and the governments were crazy for warning people and banning smoking in public places. I am one of the people who suffered greatly from second hand smoke from parents who smoked three packs of king sized cigarettes per day. They smoked so much, they didn’t need matches, cuz they simply lit up with the last one. Chain smokers.

But because of my biological studies, and because I’ve had the flu several times myself, I scoff at the ridiculous narratives created by government approved virologists and epidemiologists. Not because the disease is not real, but because of the social shutdowns that have been enacted to deal with this.

We need to do a better job of specifically protecting the vulnerable (we’ve known exactly who they are since Italy in February) and let the rest of society move on.

The difference between nicotine lethality deniers and Lockdown critics is that nicotine is a commercial product and the nicotine industry hired nicotine defenders to preserve their profit margins. Whereas the Lockdown critics may well have the profits of capitalism at heart, but the situation is not comparable, because we are talking entire sectors of economic activity put out of business (travel, even domestic, tourism, museums, hotels, restaurants, bars, movies showing, movie making, etc, etc, etc)

But worse, lockdowns are basically bubble life. I’ve now been a “bubble” for 5 months. And my immune system has lost 5 months of immune training. This will be very bad news for our long term immunity.

Riccardo Tomlinson
Riccardo Tomlinson
3 years ago

I was sat next to an immunologist at a get together the other evening (socially distanced of course!) and I mentioned to him this very issue.

We are in Birmingham and the Birmingham university Antibody test is known to be more Sensitive. Still, they tested a large number of hospital staff and came up with only 12% positive, which surprised everyone. The immunologist is on a team which have developed a T Cell test for Covid. He said he like many others had tested positive for T Cells but negative for antibodies.

It seems to me that every time they do these antibody surveys they get a lower number. Back in May there was a big survey (was it the MRC Cambridge one?) which came up with 11% for UK and 20% in London.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

The 10-20% range is entrirely consistent with the emerging figures of 80% immune due to T-cell response. Curious isn’t it that 10-20% occurs across the world in a variety of tests! It suggests that there really is “dark matter” affecting the other 80%.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago

With all this uncertainty about immunity, how are they effectively verifying immunity in the coronavirus vaccine trials?

Here’s some info from the abstract of the recent Lancet paper re the Oxford vaccine:

In the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 group, spike-specific T-cell responses peaked on day 14 (median 856 spot-forming cells per million peripheral blood mononuclear cells, IQR 493″“1802; n=43). Anti-spike IgG responses rose by day 28 (median 157 ELISA units [EU], 96″“317; n=127), and were boosted following a second dose (639 EU, 360″“792; n=10). Neutralising antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 32 (91%) of 35 participants after a single dose when measured in MNA80 and in 35 (100%) participants when measured in PRNT50. After a booster dose, all participants had neutralising activity (nine of nine in MNA80 at day 42 and ten of ten in Marburg VN on day 56). Neutralising antibody responses correlated strongly with antibody levels measured by ELISA (R2=0·67 by Marburg VN; p<0·001).

Interpretation

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 showed an acceptable safety profile, and homologous boosting increased antibody responses. These results, together with the induction of both humoral and cellular immune responses, support large-scale evaluation of this candidate vaccine in an ongoing phase 3 programme.

See: Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: a preliminary report of a phase 1/2, single-blind, randomised controlled trial

Jos Vernon
Jos Vernon
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Vaccines may evoke a different response from the disease yet still provide immunity. Eg measles

Bob Honda
Bob Honda
3 years ago

I’d like to understand on what basis Tim Spector puts the IFR at 1%? Most newer studies put the IFR in the 0.1-0.3% range, even the CDC has used 0.26% (This was a while back so probably lower now).

Andrew M
Andrew M
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

No they don’t (most newer studies that is). There is a recent meta analysis here giving a point estimate of 0.68% and this is in line with current WHO thinking. CDC is highly politicised.

https://www.medrxiv.org/con

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago

This isn’t news.
Its been know for months that some covid people don’t test positive for antibody. They can also be carriers tho.

Tome Chivers needs to find something else to write about

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago

The virus was around long before Christmas. In France the first case of internal transmission, ie a french guy who had not been out of the country, has been confirmed as early December. Tests on sewage in Northern Italy suggest the virus was present last November.

So at the rate it was spreading , doubling every 3 days, then by late February early March most people would have come across the virus. Hence so many deaths, not from a few cases, but from literally tens of millions. This makes the IFR so much lower, estimated by several prestigious institutions at somewhere between 0.25 and 0.4.

To get a good grip on the science around the world seek out Dr Mercolas website. He links to various studies around the world. But you will need to actively seek him out and sign up just like UNHERD because the search engines and mainstream media censor his important contributions. Censored by the likes of Google and YouTube and others.

But when he points to scientific articles from previous Nobel Prize winning scientists, proving almost beyond doubt that the virus has been manipulated in a laboratory, then he his seen as controversial, and anyone who states evidence contrary to the WHO narrative is censored.

We are being lied to big time and eventually the truth will come out. But meanwhile UNHERD readers should begin educating themselves.

And don’t forget your D.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago

Sharing this for info…

COVID19 PCR Tests are Scientifically Meaningless

Though the whole world relies on RT-PCR to “diagnose” Sars-Cov-2 infection, the science is clear: they are not fit for purpose

From Torsten Engelbrecht and Konstantin Demeter

Lockdowns and hygienic measures around the world are based on numbers of cases and mortality rates created by the so-called SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests used to identify “positive” patients, whereby “positive” is usually equated with “infected.”

But looking closely at the facts, the conclusion is that these PCR tests are meaningless as a diagnostic tool to determine an alleged infection by a supposedly new virus called SARS-CoV-2.

UNFOUNDED “TEST, TEST, TEST,”Š” MANTRA

See more of the article by searching for the title, it’s on the Bulgarian Pathology Association website: COVID19 PCR Tests are Scientifically Meaningless

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

The inventor of the PCR test stated it should not be used to detect a virus !!!!!

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

No, Kary Mullis said it can’t be used to count viral load, apparently as part of argument that HIV does not cause AIDS. We call this “going a bit emeritus” in the trade (as in “poor Prof Jones has gone a bit emeritus”). Brian Josephson also won a Nobel Prize but his office door at the Cavendish lab is plastered with posters about psychic powers (or at least it was about 20 years ago).

CYRIL NAMMOCK
CYRIL NAMMOCK
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

No equivalence whatsoever between Mullis’s assertions and Josephson’s peculiar obsessions.

Mavka Rusalka
Mavka Rusalka
3 years ago

Good article. Thank you. But from my recent rereading of my old immunology textbooks, it seems that antibodies have a half-life in the body — meaning they eventually disappear. No antibodies today doesn’t mean there weren’t any a month ago. The memory for how to build them may remain in B-cells though I’m not sure how one would look. This half life of antibodies in the blood is a very important point. Ohers below also mentioned the extremely important role that may be played by T-cells. It seems that the virus does, indeed, hit a wall after infecting some relatively low proportion of the populations. Hospitalizations are declining in Texas and Arizona. That means, contrary to the hype, most people are “immune” (that is the previous word we used to use for “asymptomatic”). But thanks for your work.

Russ Richer
Russ Richer
3 years ago

The COVID origin theory, like other theories, hasn’t been statistically proven. It’s important not to discount early infection narratives from November, December, January, and February based on unproven hypotheses. We know the virus was in western countries including the UK in January. That means it had roughly 60 days to circulate unimpeded until the lockdown.

If we take UK confirmed cases from March 1st we see that the UK had 35 confirmed cases. By March 31st confirmed cases reached 25,500 in just 30 days. In just 30 more days as of April 30, confirmed cases reached 171,250. And that’s inclusive of the late March stay-at-home mandate. That demonstrates the exponential growth of infection.

I don’t think labeling people as hypochondriacs for thinking they may have had the virus prior to April serves any purpose. That the virus had 60 days (at least) to spread unimpeded beginning in January, and that 90% of those wouldn’t need hospitalization, suggests at the very least hundreds of thousands in the UK were infected by mid-March.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago

When any ‘science’ enters the news like this it exposes how much we don’t know – We know what we see and record it all brilliantly but we don’t know the why and the deeper we dig the more we start to understand the vastness of what we don’t know – Anyway it looks more and more likely as the total deaths from all causes drops below average that this pandemic is no worse than flu and the Lockdown social and economic destruction will now and later insidiously be killing more than this CCP virus.

Adamsson
Adamsson
3 years ago

To sum up then.
Antibody testing is quick and easy and largely useless
But that’s not going to stop them

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

Hey Tom, here’s a grammatical suggestion:
1. One person I know even convinced HIMSELF that HE’d had it ….
OR
2. One person I know even convinced HERSELF that SHE’d had it ….
OR (if you insist on not ID’ing the sex of this person you know)
3. One person I know even was convinced of having it ….
There …. not so difficult, is it?

alisonfletch
alisonfletch
3 years ago

I think I had it, but not even in Feb…in December! I am not making it up for attention seeking purposes. It’s just a fact, now I have read about it. I had a temp, fatigue, terrible sore throat, tummy ache, conjunctivitis, loss of taste, smell and appetite, rash on fingers and toes, chill blains. No cough. It was very unpleasant and inconvenient at the time too as was away dog sitting so no medical attention poss. but I am glad I didn’t know what it was. I gargled with dilute TCP and took everything I had in my meds bag as more and more of my body started to get affected. My husband was ok. I think it has been around in Europe long before Christmas, so lots of people must have had it. I recall a removals man from London with an incessant dry cough coming in our house on 20 Dec. I was ill within 7/10 days for about 10 days.Some heart attacks and strokes were probably triggered by it but young, slim, fit people with white skin may have had mild or no symptoms. I am white, keep fit and take Vit D, C and Zinc so this may have helped but I do have cold hands and boy did those chill blains hurt! I am not young, nearly 60. It wasn’t like the flu, it was weird but now I understand what it was. I got off lightly (I hope) but my nails are still strange, probably ‘cos of the lack of blood flow.

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago
Reply to  alisonfletch

The virus has been found in sewage waters in Milan last December, so it was surely around in Italy, and if it was circulating widely in Milan, it could be easily have been passed around Europe.
Moreover there are are other sporadic stories of ill people, connected with athletes at the military games in Wuhan last October, so it is absolutely reasonable you cought it

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  alisonfletch

I think I had it in January because I lost my sense of humour for a few days.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You think you had it bad, my sense of humour has still not returned.

carolstaines8
carolstaines8
3 years ago

We stand a better chance of understanding the behaviour of the virus and its consequences if, accepting that the virus was developed in a laboratory, we had answers to the following questions: 1) What were they working on? 2) What were they attempting to do? 3) Who was funding the work?

Andrew M
Andrew M
3 years ago

I see these discussions about T-cell cross immunity touted around in social media far more than they are given a great deal of weight by scientists in this field.

This is a pre-print with some observations based on a small sample. It fits a narrative though which is very convenient for some people – confirmation bias at work. It has spawned a number of fallacies.

One is that suddenly it offers this holy grail of “herd immunity” without a vaccine. No. This comes from misunderstanding the maths:

https://statmodeling.stat.c

Another is that “presence of any half relevant T-cell”=”immunity”. People should study up on “correlates of protection”.

Any attempt to predict disease spread and fatality rates building in this T-call observation also needs to explain the various observed incidents when c. half of captive population has been infected by CV-19 and the infection hasn’t yet stopped spreading when interventions are made (Charles de Gaulle, US prisons, a US children’s camp is a more recent example).

Individual antibody tests are in any case next to useless. The only point of antibody testing is on a sampling basis in populations so as to monitor spread of the disease. Such surveillance studies (including the one in the UK) are longitudinal – they are repeated periodically. If there is some enormous flaw in the assumptions about spread made so far (and one of these fringe theories actually is shown to have some genuine merit), it will show up in the data pretty quickly.

I had a really bad throat bug in 2001 – I reckon it must have been Covid-19.

jencastle3
jencastle3
3 years ago

Very interesting article. Couple of questions. Apologies in advance as I’m a bit slow at understanding things here.

Not sure I fully understand the explanation in the article re: negative result for antibodies.
If a significant number of antibody tests are negative in people who had COVID or thought they had, wouldn’t that be cause for concern rather than optimism? If antibodies create immunity, doesn’t having a negative antibody result mean that those tested are vulnerable to the virus again?

Or is the article saying that the negative testing result is flawed? And isn’t showing a true picture of things and in fact more people have already had COVID. So there’s more herd immunity than we originally thought?

Also, I still want to understand why people in hospitals (patients & healthcare workers) – especially at the early stages – in China, Northern Italy & beyond were dying from viral overload with COVID. This rate of death from viral load hadn’t happened in hospital settings with previous flu/viruses. This was what started the push for lockdown, when the initial (later debunked) projection was for deaths in the millions etc.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  jencastle3

Antibodies are only one form of immune system memory. Testing for them is cheaper and easier than for the other systems.

The main memory-defence for RNA viruses is in the form of T-cells. This is not my area (I am a physicist), but I understand It is quite common with coronaviruses for people to develop T-cell immune memory without developing antibodies.

T-cells don’t prevent virus from entering cells the way antibodies can, but they do deal with compromised cells to limit the spread of the virus within the body. They are also part of the system that can moderate the immune overreaction that is responsible for the damage done by the disease.

A lot has been said about “herd immunity”, but it is better to describe it is “herd resistance”.

Hope this helps.

Jos Vernon
Jos Vernon
3 years ago

Tom casts a sceptical eye at the Spanish study which reported a 5% infection rate based on antibody tests.

However the paper itself includes this rather remarkable comment,

“However, the fact that only 15·3″“19·3% of symptomatic participants had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 suggests that a sizable proportion of suspected cases might have symptoms not caused by this coronavirus.”

So they are saying that more than 80% of people who had Covid symptoms actually had some other mysterious disease just like Covid but different. Really?

If one was to take the more common sense view that perhaps the tests weren’t great then it would be reasonable to conclude that the 5% actually equates to about 40%.

Jos Vernon
Jos Vernon
3 years ago

I believe the Roche and Abbott tests used by the NHS test for antibodies to N (Nucleocapsid) however there are lots of bits of the virus one can develop antibodies against.

So I know a highly exposed individual working in the NHS. He tests negative for N but is off the scale for RBD (the touchy bit of spike).