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SCOPI: COVID-19 antibody research study results

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) have completed their study about coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in Ireland.

The main aim was to find out how widely coronavirus has spread in Ireland and what age groups are affected.

The study involved:

  • answering a questionnaire over the phone
  • having a blood test at a local centre to test for coronavirus antibodies

Participants were provided with their individual results by letter. Their GP was also provided with the result if the participant consented to this.

Read more about the SCOPI COVID-19 antibody research study design.


1,733 people aged 12 to 69 years answered the questionnaire and provided a blood sample.

The findings were:

  • 33 people were found to have coronavirus antibodies
  • the proportion of people between 12 and 69 years of age with coronavirus antibodies among the population of Dublin was estimated at 3.1% and among the population of Sligo was estimated at 0.6%
  • there was no difference in the results between age groups or between men and women
  • 73% of participants with coronavirus antibodies reported symptoms in line with the national case definition for coronavirus - fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell, or loss of sense of taste
  • 33% reported loss of sense of smell and/or taste

Based on the results, it is estimated that:

  • the proportion of people between 12 and 69 years of age with coronavirus antibodies among the population living in Ireland was estimated at 1.7%
  • 59,500 people in Ireland aged between 12 and 69 years of age have been infected with coronavirus. This is 3 times higher than the number of confirmed cases in the age group 12 to 69 years
  • the vast majority of people living in Ireland are unlikely to have been infected with coronavirus by the time of the study

Download the full SCOPI: COVID-19 antibody research study results report.

What a negative result means

If antibodies to the coronavirus were not found (a negative test result), it may mean that the participant had:

  • never been infected – this is the most likely explanation
  • been infected but had a mild infection and had a level of antibody in the blood that the test wasn’t able to detect

What a positive result means

If antibodies to the coronavirus were found (a positive test result), it is a sign that the participant was infected at some time. Because it's a new disease and the tests for it are new, we don’t know if this will protect a person from being infected again.

A positive test result does not mean that a person is immune to coronavirus.

What we do with the study results

We will share the results with the coronavirus team in the Department of Health. This will help with decisions about how to control the spread of the virus.

We will also share anonymised results with the World Health Organization. This will help to add to worldwide knowledge on the spread of coronavirus.

The results will not identify any individuals.

Read the coronavirus (Covid-19) public health advice.