Added value of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in a Flemish nursing home during an acute COVID-19 outbreak in April 2020

Frank Buntinx, Peter Claes, Marjo Gulikers, Jan Verbakel, De Lepeleire Jan, Michaël Van der Elst, Jan Van Elslande, Marc Van Ranst, Pieter Vernneersch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Objectives To examine the added value of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in a nursing home during an acute COVID-19 outbreak. RT-PCR is the gold standard, but can be false-negative. Methods 119 residents and 93 staff members were tested with RT-PCR test and/or a rapid IgM/IgG test. Of these participants, 176 had both tests, 24 only RT-PCR, and 12 only IgM/IgG in the period April 14 to 16 April 2020. Results 40 (34%) residents and 11 (13%) staff were PCR-positive. Using a rapid IgM/IgG test, 17 (17%) residents and 18 (20%) staff were positive for IgM and/or IgG (IgM/IgG). Thirty-two PCR-positive residents had an IgM/IgG test: 9 (28%), 11 (34%), and 13 (41%) were positive for IgM, IgG, and IgM/IgG. Ten PCR-positive staff had an IgM/IgG test: 3 (30%), 6 (60%), and 6 (60%) were positive for IgM, IgG, and IgM/IgG. Additional IgM/IgG tests were performed in 9 residents 11 to 14 days after the positive RT-PCR test. Of those, 7 (78%) tested positive for IgM/IgG. When retested 3 weeks later, the 2 remaining residents also tested positive. Of the 134 PCR-negative participants who had an IgM/IgG test, 15 were positive for IgM/IgG (8% of the 200 participants tested with RT-PCR). Conclusions During an acute outbreak in a nursing home, 26% of residents and staff were PCR-positive. An additional 8% was diagnosed using IgM/IgG antibody testing. The use of RT-PCR alone as the sole diagnostic method for surveillance during an acute outbreak is insufficient to grab the full extent of the outbreak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
JournalActa Clinica Belgica
Issue number2
Early online date19 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • disease outbreaks
  • immunoassay
  • point-of-care testing
  • sensitivity and specificity

Cite this