Office workers and city government employees queue at a temporary covid-19 novel coronavirus testing centre outside city hall in Seoul on December 17, 2020. (AFP / Ed Jones)

Misleading claim circulates on Facebook that only South Koreans have Covid-19 antibodies

Multiple Facebook posts circulating online in February 2021 claim that only people from South Korea have Covid-19 antibodies, citing a South Korean scientific study as evidence. The claim is misleading: according to one of the co-authors of the scientific study published in January 2021, researchers analysed coronavirus antibodies found in Covid-19 patients from the United States and South Korea.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on February 8, 2021.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on February 10, 2021.

"Without [Covid-19] vaccines, 60% of our people have antibodies. Only South Koreans," reads the Korean-language claim. 

Additional text highlighted in red refers to a South Korean scientific study published in January 2021. It reads: "The research found that six out of ten people who had never contracted Covid-19 have pre-existing stereotypic neutralising antibodies from Covid-19."

The same screenshot has been shared on Facebook here, here and here with a similar claim.

The claim is misleading. 

The claim surfaced online shortly after South Korea's Seoul National University published new research here on January 27, 2021 about Covid-19 antibodies. It found evidence that coronavirus antibodies exist in healthy people, as well as patients suffering from Covid-19.

The researchers said their findings were evidence that Covid-19 antibodies exist in the human body and may provide immunity against the viral infection.

In response to the misleading posts, Chung Junho, a professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine and one of the co-authors of the paper, told AFP that the study's participants were not solely from South Korea. 

“The study is based on data collected from the United States and South Korea,” Chung said by email on February 9, 2021.

There was no information in the paper to support the misleading claim that antibodies against Covid-19 were only found in South Korean people.

Separately, the Korea Biomedical Review published an article about the study that made no reference to where the participants originated from.

Globally, there have been several other studies into the development of Covid-19 antibodies that used patients from various countries, including the UK, as AFP reported here.

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