Six found with SARS-CoV-2 virus antibodies in nationwide survey

James Kon & Wani Roslan

Six members of the public who participated in the COVID-19 survey from May 4 to 6 had antibodies for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, results from the swab tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus were negative.

This gives the impression that the six individuals may have been infected with the virus but did not have an active infection at that time, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said.

The minister revealed this at the daily press conference at the Al-‘Afiah Hall at the Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday.

He said the survey aims to provide an overview of the estimated rate of infection among the community in the country.

“Five hundred and twenty-seven people out of five selected health facilities nationwide were invited to participate in the survey.

“The preliminary analysis revealed that six participants had the antibody for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“Further investigations via swabbing for SARS-CoV-2 virus tested negative. This gives the impression that they may have been infected with the virus but did not have an active infection,” the minister said.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar at the press conference. PHOTO: JAMES KON

He said, “Results from this kind of research can help the ministry estimate the population’s immunity for a certain infection. The MoH is planning to conduct a follow-up investigation in the coming months.”

With the six found to have antibodies, the minister explained the possible scenarios, first by assuming that there was a limited spread of this disease and the six participants were infected with SARS-CoV-2.

“It also means, like any test, there is a possibility of false positive because this kind of SARS-CoV-2 can cross and link with the human coronavirus which causes a normal flu,” he said.

The SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus. Coronavirus exists in the form of human coronavirus. Antibodies can react with test kits as well.

In another scenario, the minister said if there is community spread, it is a small number.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham reminded the public to always comply with Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines – no mass gathering and practising social distancing.

“We closed our borders in mid-March but the virus was detected long before that (in China).

“People were going in and out of the country. This is the reason we carried out the survey,” he said.

“Despite the sample being small, it does not give much power to the study. Hopefully, we can do more in the near future in stages. Maybe another 1,000 to see where we are,” he added.

The minister also said no new COVID-19 cases were reported yesterday with the tally remaining at 141. “Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, there are no new COVID-19 cases in the country.

“The total number of COVID-19 cases in Brunei Darussalam remains at 141,” he said.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said no case recovered and the total number of recoveries remains at 132. This brings the number of active cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre (NIC) to eight where two are still in a critical condition. One still requires heart-lung machine (ECMO) as well as respiratory assistance while the other requires respiratory assistance. The rest are in a stable condition, he said.

The minister added that 132 individuals are undergoing quarantine in accordance to the Infectious Diseases Act (Chapter 204) while 2,575 have completed their quarantine.

He said in the past 24 hours, 182 samples were tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus bringing the total number of laboratory tests conducted since January to 15,482.

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In its breakdown of COVID- 19 cases in the country, revealed that the Brunei-Muara District has 110 cases, Belait District 25 and Tutong District six.