National and targeted sero-surveys of population immunity to SARS-COV2 to inform clinical and public health responses


Lead Investigator team

  • NCIRS: Ms Kaitlyn Vette, Associate Professor Heather Gidding, Dr Helen Quinn, Dr Alex Hendry, Ms Lucy Armstrong, Dr Frank Beard, Professor Kristine Macartney
  • Kirby Institute: Dr Dorothy Machalek, Professor John Kaldor
  • The Royal Women’s Hospital: Ms Hannah Shilling
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute: Professor John Carlin

Key collaborators and specimen collection sites:

  • Australian Red Cross Lifeblood – Adjunct Professor David Irving, Professor Iain Gosbell, Dr Rena Hirani and team
  • Public and private collection laboratories

Laboratory methods leads

  • Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL): Ms Suellen Nicholson
  • Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR): Dr Matthew O’Sullivan

Reference laboratories

  • PathWest
  • SA Pathology
  • Pathology Queensland

Jurisdictional representatives

  • ACT – Dr Tambri Housen
  • NSW – Mr Roy Byun
  • NT – Dr Peter Markey
  • QLD – Associate Professor Stephen Lambert
  • SA – Professor Caroline Miller
  • TAS – Dr Louise Cooley
  • VIC – Ms Janet Strachan
  • WA – Professor Paul Effler

Outcomes for Australia

This project will help us to better understand infection rates with the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in Australia. This will help to inform policy-making so we are well-placed to lessen the impact of the epidemic over the coming 6 to 24 months, as the patterns of virus resurgence become clearer and new control measures become available.


Although there is limited understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), previous work from SARS suggests that protective immunity is induced following the production of neutralising antibodies. Age-stratified seroepidemiologic surveys are considered by the WHO, and others to be of a high priority in order to address the largest knowledge gaps. Serological surveillance is also a component of the Australian National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19.

A comprehensive understanding of the antibody response and potential for immunity to SARS-COV-2 during and following the first stages of community transmission is needed to:

  • better understand infection rates and prevalence of infection in the whole population
  • understand the impact of the first and subsequent ‘waves’ and anticipate the future impact on key population subgroups
  • anticipate how many people may be susceptible (or immune) during future epidemic waves of COVID-19
  • inform modelling and decision-making on deployment of therapeutic and prophylactic interventions, particularly COVID-19 vaccines.


  • Determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection at a national level during and following the initial wave of community transmission
  • Determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in select vulnerable populations
  • Determine factors associated with the development of SARS-CoV-2 infection at a national and subpopulation level
  • Examine the utility of newly developed serological assays for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection

Read about other COVID-19 projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council