These efforts will be coordinated by a workgroup established within the Epidemiology Committee of the National COVID-19 Headquarters, endorsed by the Minister of Health and Medical Education.
“These kits will be used for seroepidemiologic studies in populations in different provinces to help us gain better insight into the prevalence of the disease in populations under study,” said Dr Ali Akbar Haghdoost, Deputy Minister for Education at Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOHME) and the head of the Epidemiology Committee.
Some of the test kits were distributed based on the seroepidemiology workgroup’s recommendation to the Iranian Blood Transfusion Organization (IBTO) to ensure the quality of donated plasma. Tests were also provided to the Pasteur Institute of Iran for research on the immunity of key populations and assessing the quality of domestic diagnostic kits, and to the Pediatric Infections Research Center at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran for a study on the prevalence of the epidemic among children. Additional tests will be distributed by the IBTO according to recommendations by the committee.
“Seroepidemiologic studies on SARS-CoV-2 are becoming ever more important, for further steering effectively public health measure, for better understanding of immunological reactions, for vaccine development and new treatment options. WHO will continue to provide strong support to the Ministry of Health and Medical Education in these areas, together with other partners such as the Robert Koch Institute,” said Dr Christoph Hamelmann, WHO Representative in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“Although this is the first time WHO supports the IBTO in COVID-19 response, this organization has contributed to controlling HIV, HCV and other blood-borne infections in the recent decade through procedures conducted on donated blood products and counseling provided to donors as a strategy for ensuring blood safety,” said Dr Omid Zamani, WHO National Professional Officer for Communicable Diseases.
Usually, antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 develop during the course of COVID-19 in infected patients. In the absence of a vaccine, they indicate current or past infection, irrespective of whether the individual had a severe or mild disease or even an asymptomatic infection. It is not yet clear for how long after the infection the acquired antibodies will remain detectable in the blood, and to what degree they contribute to immunity.
The IBTO High Institute for Research and Education in Transfusion Medicine is a designated WHO Collaborating Center since 1 September 2013. The organization is screening blood donors nation-wide and prepares plasma therapy kits for treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.