SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence trends in healthy blood donors during the COVID-19 Milan outbreak


Background&Aims: The Milan metropolitan area in Northern Italy was among the most severely hit by the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. The aim of this study was to examine the seroprevalence trends of SARS-CoV-2 in healthy asymptomatic adults, the risk factors, and laboratory correlates. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in a random sample of blood donors since the start of the outbreak (February 24th to April 8th 2020, n=789). Presence of IgM/IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2-Nucleocapsid protein was assessed by a lateral flow immunoassay. Results: The test had a 100/98.3 sensitivity/specificity, and for IgG+ was validated in a subset by an independent ELISA against the Spike protein (N=34, P<0.001). At the outbreak start, the overall adjusted seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 was 2.7%, 95% c.i. 0.3-6% (P<0.0001 vs. 120 historical controls). During the study period characterized by a gradual implementation of social distancing measures, there was a progressive increase in adjusted seroprevalence to 5.2%, 95% c.i. 2.4-9.0, due to a rise in IgG+ tests to 5%, 95%CI 2.8-8.2 (P=0.004 for trend, adjusted weekly increase 2.7+/-1.3%), but not of IgM+ (P=NS). At multivariate logistic regression analysis, seroconversion to IgG+ was more frequent in younger (P=0.043), while recent infections (IgM+) in older individuals (P=0.002). IgM+ was independently associated with higher triglycerides, eosinophils, and lymphocytes (P<0.05). Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 infection was already circulating in Milan at the outbreak start. Social distancing may have been more effective in younger individuals, and by the end of April 2.4-9.0% of healthy adults had evidence of seroconversion. Asymptomatic infection may affect lipid profile and blood count.