Dental professionals at high occupational risk of COVID-19, Study says
According to a recent research carried out by a team from the Clinical Immunology Service, Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, it has been observed that dental care professionals (DCPs) are thought to be at enhanced risk of occupational exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The research is published in the Journal of Dental Research.
Since, robust data to support this from large-scale seroepidemiological studies are lacking, A.M. Shields and colleagues carried out a longitudinal seroprevalence analysis of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein, with baseline sampling prior to large-scale practice reopening in July 2020 and follow-up postimplementation of new public health guidance on infection prevention control (IPC) and enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE).
The researchers included a total of 1,507 West Midlands DCPs. Baseline seroprevalence was determined using a combined IgGAM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the cohort followed longitudinally for 6 mo until January/February 2021 through the second wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in the United Kingdom and vaccination commencement.
The key findings highlighted from the study were-
- Baseline seroprevalence was 16.3%, compared to estimates in the regional population of 6% to 7%.
- Seropositivity was retained in over 70% of participants at 3- and 6-mo follow-up and conferred a 75% reduced risk of infection.
- Nonwhite ethnicity and living in areas of greater deprivation were associated with increased baseline seroprevalence.
- During follow-up, no polymerase chain reaction–proven infections occurred in individuals with a baseline anti–SARS-CoV-2 IgG level greater than 147.6 IU/ml with respect to the World Health Organization international standard 20-136.
- After vaccination, antibody responses were more rapid and of higher magnitude in those individuals who were seropositive at baseline.
These results led the authors to concluded that "natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 prior to enhanced PPE was significantly higher in DCPs than the regional population. Natural infection leads to a serological response that remains detectable in over 70% of individuals 6 mo after initial sampling and 9 mo from the peak of the first wave of the pandemic."
The researchers called for future research on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination strategies (eg, different doses, vaccine combinations) and on variants of concern. "Further studies are necessary to comprehensively understand whether these comparative statistics represent a true lowering of exposure rates of [dental professionals] following reopening of general dental practices and the additional precautions taken to ensure practices became COVID-19 secure," they wrote.