SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody detection in healthcare workers in Germany with direct contact to COVID-19 patients

J Clin Virol. 2020 Jul;128:104437. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104437. Epub 2020 May 13.


Background: The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a severe respiratory manifestation, COVID-19, and presents a challenge for healthcare systems worldwide. Healthcare workers are a vulnerable cohort for SARS-CoV-2 infection due to frequent and close contact to patients with COVID-19.

Study design: Serum samples from 316 healthcare workers of the University Hospital Essen, Germany were tested for SARS-CoV-2-IgG antibodies. A questionnaire was used to collect demographic and clinical data. Healthcare workers were grouped depending on the frequency of contact to COVID-19 patients in high-risk-group (n = 244) with daily contact to known or suspected SARS-CoV-2 positive patients, intermediated-risk-group (n = 37) with daily contact to patients without known or suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection at admission and low-risk-group (n = 35) without patient contact.

Results: In 5 of 316 (1.6 %) healthcare workers SARS-CoV-2-IgG antibodies could be detected. The seroprevalence was higher in the intermediate-risk-group vs. high-risk-group (2/37 (5.4 %) vs. 3/244 (1.2 %), p = 0.13). Four of the five subject were tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 via PCR. One (20 %) subject was not tested via PCR since he was asymptomatic.

Conclusion: The overall seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare workers of a tertiary hospital in Germany is low (1.6 %). The data indicate that the local hygiene standard might be effective.

Keywords: Antibody detection; COVID-19; Healthcare workers; SARS-CoV-2; Seroprevalence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Betacoronavirus / immunology*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Risk
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Tertiary Care Centers


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G