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Rapid tests for the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2

In April we started serological tests for the detection of antibodies against the coronavirus, an initiative that was initially intended for our employees and sparked keen interest among the entire population of Ortisei. Here is the story told firsthand.
Many of you will surely have heard from the media about the rapid test kits used in the ADLER BALANCE health centre to test the population of Ortisei for coronavirus antibodies. Now, it appears that our tests have attracted the interest of the scientific community as well as the media’s.

Since many of you have enquired with us about this, we would like to give you, our loyal guests, more detailed and, above all, first-hand information on the matter.

AROUND MID-MARCH, shortly after lockdown was introduced, we learnt that some eminent laboratories were developing serological tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. These are used to identify people who have caught the virus and recovered from it. We decided to take immediate action, ordering 1,000 test kits from a leading Italian laboratory.


Our original intention was to use them to test our staff. However, as soon as we started performing the first tests, word quickly spread in the village. In a matter of hours, we were overwhelmed by the number of requests. Citizens were anxious to know about their own health and that of their families, as according to general practitioners, the virus had been spreading in the Val Gardena area since the beginning of March (although no cases were reported in our hotels).

In collaboration with general practitioners in Ortisei, who volunteered to work free of charge, we assembled a motivated and well-organised team of ADLER employees and decided to make our tests available to the entire population – not so much to promote scientific research, but to offer our fellow citizens a much-needed service and the assurance they sought at such a difficult time.
After two weeks, we had concluded the first series of 1,000 tests, and 962 people of all ages were tested – corresponding to 20% of the population of Ortisei.

The RESULTS caused quite a stir: 49% of these people (a highly representative sample of the local population) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. This means that they had developed IgM antibodies to a large extent, but especially IgG antibodies, confirming what general practitioners in Val Gardena had long suspected. A large part of the population (probably almost 50 times larger than official figures show) had contracted the novel coronavirus in the period between late February and March. However, only one third of those who tested positive for antibodies had experienced obvious symptoms, while one third had only had mild symptoms and another third were asymptomatic, i.e. stated that they had not even noticed that they had come into contact with the virus.
 
In the meantime, a team of international experts is analysing the results of our tests. Based on the assumption that the presence of IgG antibodies implies a degree of immunity to the coronavirus that could last at least a few years, and that a part of the population is itself insensitive to the virus due to a genetically determined predisposition of their immune system, experts believe that the degree of immunity to Covid-19 of the population of Val Gardena should be around 70-75%. Therefore, it can certainly be argued that we have reached the threshold for herd immunity established by the scientific community.

In fact, no new cases have been recorded in the area for more than three weeks. This is a sign that the virus is probably no longer present and, according to experts, will have great difficulty reoccurring given the widespread immunity in the local population.

As some virologists expressed concerns about the reliability of results, our tests have undergone a validation process carried out by third-party authorities. Comparison with scientific ELISA control tests involving blood analysis in specialised laboratories showed a correlation of 95%. This high degree of reliability contributed to the decision made by a team of scientists to conduct an international scientific study on our tests.

As for us, we can say that these tests have restored our usual optimism, and we are confident that all will be well again soon.

WE ARE READY TO RE-OPEN as soon as allowed and to offer you once again a holiday experience based on freedom and harmony with nature. It is a known fact that undertaking outdoor activities in unspoilt areas such as the Dolomites, Val d'Orcia and the Renon plateau has a positive effect on the immune system – the importance of which we have always recognised.

When we re-open, we will focus on safety and will naturally take all the necessary precautions. We have ordered another 2,000 serological test kits, which we will use to perform regular tests on our personnel. We will also continue to make them available to the citizens of Ortisei and to our guests (only on request, of course).

We look forward to welcoming you again with our usual joy and heartfelt hospitality.

With warm regards,
The Sanoner family and the teams at the ADLER Spa Resorts and Lodges