Estimation of SARS-CoV-2 infection fatality rate by real-time antibody screening of blood donors

Abstract

Background: The pandemic due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has tremendous consequences for our societies. Knowledge of the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 is needed to accurately monitor the spread of the epidemic and also to calculate the infection fatality rate (IFR). These measures may help the authorities to make informed decisions and adjust the current societal interventions. Blood donors comprise approximately 4.7% of the similarly aged population of Denmark and blood is donated in all areas of the country. The objective of this study was to perform real-time seroprevalence surveying among blood donors as a tool to estimate previous SARS-CoV-2 infections and the population based IFR. Methods: All Danish blood donors aged 17-69 years giving blood April 6 to 17 were tested for SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin M and G antibodies using a commercial lateral flow test. Antibody status was compared between areas and an estimate of the IFR was calculated. The seroprevalence was adjusted for assay sensitivity and specificity taking the uncertainties of the test validation into account when reporting the 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: The first 9,496 blood donors were tested and a combined adjusted seroprevalence of 1.7% (CI: 0.9-2.3) was calculated. The seroprevalence differed across areas. Using available data on fatalities and population numbers a combined IFR in patients younger than 70 is estimated at 82 per 100,000 (CI: 59-154) infections. Conclusions: The IFR was estimated to be slightly lower than previously reported from other countries not using seroprevalence data. The IFR, including only individuals with no comorbidity, is likely several fold lower than the current estimate. This may have implications for risk mitigation. We have initiated real-time nationwide anti-SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence surveying of blood donations as a tool in monitoring the epidemic.

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