BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has presented itself as one of the most important health concerns of the 2020's, and hit the geriatric population the hardest. The presence of co-morbidities and immune ageing in the elderly lead to an increased susceptibility to COVID-19, as is the case for other influenza-like illnesses (ILI) or acute respiratory tract infections (ARI). However, little is known, about the impact of a previous or current infection on the other in terms of susceptibility, immune response, and clinical course. The aim of the "Prior Infection with SARS-COV-2" (PICOV) study is to compare the time to occurrence of an ILI or ARI between participants with a confirmed past SARS-CoV-2 infection (previously infected) and those without a confirmed past infection (naïve) in residents and staff members of nursing homes. This paper describes the study design and population characteristics at baseline.
METHODS: In 26 Belgian nursing homes, all eligible residents and staff members were invited to participate, resulting in 1,226 participants. They were classified as naïve or previously infected based on the presence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and/or a positive RT-qPCR result before participation in the study. Symptoms from a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection between March and August 2020 were compared between previously infected residents and staff members.
RESULTS: Infection naïve nursing home residents reported fewer symptoms than previously infected residents: on average 1.9 and 3.1 symptoms, respectively (p = 0.016). The same effect was observed for infection naïve staff members and previously infected staff members (3.1 and 6.1 symptoms, respectively; p <0.0001). Moreover, the antibody development after a SARS-CoV-2 infection differs between residents and staff members, as previously infected residents tend to have a higher rate of asymptomatic cases compared to previously infected staff members (20.5% compared to 12.4%; p <0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: We can postulate that COVID-19 disease development and symptomatology are different between a geriatric and younger population. Therefore, the occurrence and severity of a future ILI and/or ARI might vary from resident to staff.
- Nursing home