COVID-19: Hotspot hospital?- seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in hospital employees in a secondary care hospital network in Germany: Intermediate results of a prospective surveillance study

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2021 Jun;235:113771. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2021.113771. Epub 2021 May 20.


Purpose: The objective of the ongoing study was to investigate how SARS-CoV-2 infection spread within two hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany by testing the employees working in high-risk, intermediate-risk and low-risk-areas for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies. Presented intermediate results evaluate the first infection period until the end of September 2020.

Methods: The study "COVID-19: Hotspot hospital?- Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in hospital employees in a secondary care hospital network in Germany " is a prospective, single centre observational cohort study conducted at the St. Vincenz Hospital Datteln with 316 beds. The presented data include one other hospital: St. Laurentius Stift Waltrop, Germany with 172 beds.

Results: Between June 2020 and September 2020 we analyzed serum samples of 907 employees which represents 62.1% of all employees. Thirteen employees (1.4%), respectively 13/696 healthcare workers (HCWs) (1.9%) had detectable SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies. Among them, 4 (30.8%) were aware of COVID-19 exposure, and 5 (38.5%) reported clinical symptoms. HCWs working in high-risk areas had a seroprevalence rate of 1.6% (1/64), HCWs working in intermediate-risk area 1.7% (11/632) and 0.5% employees (1/211) in low-risk areas with no contact to patients were seropositive.

Conclusion: Even if we treated COVID-19 positive patients, we found no clear evidence that infection was transmitted to HCWs in contact to these patients. As knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 transmission evolves, the concept of infection prevention must be continuously reviewed and adapted as needed to keep hospitals a safe place.

Keywords: Antibodies; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Healthcare workers; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • Disease Hotspot
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Secondary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G