Only 5.5% of Belgians have coronavirus antibodies, study shows
Share article:
Share article:

Only 5.5% of Belgians have coronavirus antibodies, study shows

Credit: Belga

Only 5.5% of Belgians have developed antibodies against the new coronavirus, according to the fourth and latest large serological study by scientists at the University of Antwerp, the VRT and De Standaard reported on Wednesday.

The presence of antibodies in the blood indicates that a person has been infected with the new coronavirus (Covid-19). If antibodies for a virus stay in the body, the person becomes immune to that virus. In the previous survey, nearly 7% of the population was protected.

For the latest study, scientists analysed blood samples from 2,960 people. The samples were taken between 8 and 13 June.

Related Articles


The last three investigations date from before and during the lockdown that went into effect in mid-March. The first indicated that 3% of Belgians had antibodies, the second 6% and the third almost 7%. With only 5.5% in the fourth survey, the upward trend is broken.

“We had not expected that drop,” said professor Pierre Van Damme, who is leading the research, “because the virus is not gone yet and, what’s more, people have started to behave more freely since the relaxation of the lockdown.”

“We assumed we would find antibodies in at least as many blood samples this time. But that is not the case,” he remarked.

“In a previous survey, it had already appeared that in some people the antibodies decreased after one or two months,” Van Damme said. “So it’s possible that in the samples we’ve studied here, the antibodies disappeared from the blood, even though the people had been infected.”

The second explanation is that people are doing a good job of following the measures well, in other words washing their hands and keeping their distance, even as the country is phasing out of confinement.

Scientists were hoping for so-called group immunity, which entails that the more people have antibodies, the fewer will become infected and the faster the disease will disappear. “The antibodies that we see unfortunately only prove that the person has recently been in contact with the coronavirus,” Van Damme said. “They do not make us immune. Maybe there are other cells in our body that do, like killer T cells. But we know too little about that at this point.”

Recent research by a Swedish university in fact recently suggested that “roughly twice as many people have developed T-cell immunity compared with those who we can detect antibodies in,” though “larger and more longitudinal studies must now be done on both T cells and antibodies to understand how long-lasting the immunity is.”

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...