The Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes (iMM) announced this Tuesday, the start of the largest national serological study done so far to assess the population’s immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, six months after the start of the pandemic and in a when a critical phase is anticipated. 12 thousand volunteers from 102 municipalities on the continent and islands will be tested for free.

The sample of the “Covid-19 National Serological Panel” was defined by specialists from Pordata and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon to be representative of the population. There are vacancies for 2200 children and young people (under 18 years old), 5500 people between 18 and 54 years old and 4300 with 55 years old or more. The number is limited by what “interested parties must register as soon as possible”, warns Bruno Silva Santos, project coordinator and deputy director of iMM.

Registrations can be made starting today, through the website “National Serological Panel Covid-19” or at one of the 314 collection stations Germano de Sousa, a partner company for this project that is fully funded by the Francisco Manuel dos Santos and Jerónimo Martins Group . There is also a helpline (808100062) for more information about the study. The counties that are going to be studied can be consulted in the next infographic.

Once enrolled, volunteers receive a code on their mobile phone with which they must go to the nearest collection station to do the blood test. The result is sent to the participants and the data, confidential, is used only for statistical purposes, guarantees Bruno Silva Santos . The code will expire after seven days, so that “vacancies are not blocked” and can be filled, the investigator added. The study will run until October 7 and the results will be released at the end of the same month.

Earlier Survey

In July, the National Institute of Health Ricardo Jorge released the preliminary results of the national serological study, carried out in May with a sample of 2300 participants, which indicated a prevalence of infection of 2.9%. “We had the holidays, people were more exposed and we are about to open schools, it is a critical period”, stressed Bruno Silva Santos . The aim is to make an “X-ray” of the epidemic to help the country to balance the efforts necessary for the social and economic recovery with the protection of life.

The results are “unknown,” but taking into account some national and foreign indicators, the project coordinator believes that the population’s immunity will be less than 20%, a far cry from the desired group immunity that will only be achieved when around 70% population has developed antibodies to SARS-Cov-2.

The iMM study will continue beyond October. A subsample will be chosen to “follow the participants’ immunological status for a year, with analyzes every three months, to see how the infection is developing in the country”, explained the researcher. The volunteers with positive tests will be followed to determine the durability of the immune response, a question that still has no scientific answer.