Published on 14.07.2021

Nestlé participates in the Corona Immunitas research program

Within the framework of the Swiss research program Corona Immunitas, the Institute of Family Medicine (IMF) and the Population Health Laboratory (#PopHealthLab) of the University of Fribourg are conducting a study to evaluate the proportion of Nestlé employees with antibodies against Covid-19 at two Swiss sites, one in the canton of Vaud and the other in the canton of Fribourg

Corona Immunitas is a national research program supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health that investigates the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic in Switzerland. The research program measures the percentage of the population with antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease. Data collected from the research program supports political and public health authorities in pandemic-related decisions.

The Nestlé-based study is led by researchers at the University of Fribourg and is one of 40 studies that are part of the Corona Immunitas research program. The study conducted at Nestlé aims to better understand the spread of Covid-19 in a population that is working from home or is office-based with enhanced health and safety worksite measures. 

Dr Isabelle Bureau-Franz, PhD, Head of Nestlé Research said, «As a private company, we are pleased to participate in one of the 40 studies of the national research program Corona Immunitas, in partnership with the University of Fribourg.  By acting as a test and recruitment site for the study, we can actively contribute to the generation of epidemiological data on immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in an active population. This scientific data is key for decision making.»

425 volunteers
The first phase of the study took place between December 2020 and February 2021. Employees based in Lausanne (VD) and Romont (FR) were invited to participate in the study and 425 persons took part.

Blood samples were collected from the volunteers by Nestlé medical staff. The samples were sent to a laboratory and analyzed for the presence or absence of antibodies against the coronavirus using serological tests. Electronic questionnaires were used to collect additional information, such as Covid-19 symptoms, behaviors regarding preventive measures or working conditions. All data was treated confidentially.

Researchers at the University of Fribourg compiled and further analyzed the collected data in order to understand the spread of the disease in a working population.

Two-phase study
In the canton of Vaud, the results showed that the proportion of employees with antibodies against Covid-19 was slightly lower among Nestlé employees than in the general population. The lower rate may be due to the fact that most employees located in the canton that participated in the study were teleworking. 

In the canton of Fribourg most employees that participated in the study were frontline workers who continued to work on site during critical periods of the pandemic. The results showed that the proportion with antibodies against Covid-19 was similar to the general population. They were likely not exposed to a greater risk of infection than the local population due to the strict safety measures that were put in place by the company.

The second phase of the study is currently taking place at the Nestlé sites to allow researchers to evaluate the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the same population.

> For more information on the Corona Immunitas program in Switzerland.
> The Institute of Family Medicine of the University of Fribourg has also created a page dedicated to the Corona Immunitas study (FR) where you can find the report of the Corona Immunitas Nestlé (FR):