Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Antibody Test Study Reveals Much Higher Covid-19 Cases in Kenya

Copyright © africanews


Higher Coronavirus Infections and an Even Lower Death Rate

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Kenya in March with around 20,636 cases and 341 deaths reported at July's end. Figures significantly lower than those in Europe and the United States.

However, recent testing is revealing that more Kenyans could be infected than initially believed.

Isabella Ochola-Oyier, the Head of the Biosciences department at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust, explains the essence of the tests used in the study.

"The PCR test tells you who has an active viral infection at the time, so who has the virus in their system. The antibody test tells you this person may have been affected in the recent past, may be infected or may have been exposed to the infection. That means they may have been in contact with somebody who was positive for SARS-CoV2."

Infected and Healthy

As per a study based on antibody tests on over 3,000 blood sample donors between April to mid-June, doctors state the real number of infected people went unnoticed because many may have been asymptomatic.

Isabella Ochola-Oyier, further explains the studies' findings in real terms.

"What we have been able to understand from the data we have been receiving for the COVID-19 testing because we support the six coastal counties in Kenya, was that a large proportion of the individuals earlier on in the pandemic asymptomatic which means they have the virus but don't show any clinical signs of just coughing or sneezing, or the standard signs that we know of. That means that they are roaming around in the population with the virus but not being sick and they are not aware that they have the virus."

Even Higher Recovery Rate

Kenya's low official infection rate could also be due to its young population of people who were more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild infections with relatively few hospitalisations as well as the strict containment measures and the limited PCR tests available.

Ahmed Kalebi, the CEO and consultant pathologist at Pathologists Lancet Kenya, appears to corroborate how the findings have played out within Kenya society.

"The infection is actually quite prevalent, not dissimilar to other countries in the world, the similarity. What is different is we are not seeing as much (many) people getting sick, getting admitted (to the hospital) and dying compared to the other countries which had similar prevalence in terms of the infection."

The study has not tested whether the antibodies generated in the sample population has resulted in immunity against future infections.

View more