Mario Plebani, Andrea Padoan, Ugo Fedeli, Elena Schievano, Elena Vecchiato, Giuseppe Lippi, Giuliana Lo Cascio, Stefano Porru, Giorgio Palu
The ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses formidable challenges to all health care systems. Serological assays may improve disease management when appropriately used, for better understanding the antibody responses mounted upon SARS-CoV-2 infection and for assessing its real prevalence. Although testing the whole population is impratical, well-designed serosurveys in selected subpopulations in specific risk groups may provide valuable information.
We evaluated the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in health care workers who underwent molecular testing with reverse transcription real-time polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) in the main hospitals of the Veneto Region by measuring specific antibodies (Abs). Methods: both IgM and IgG antibodies against SARS-Cov-2 S-antigen and N-protein were measured using a validated chemiluminescent analytical system (CLIA) called Maglumi 2000 Plus (New Industries Biomedical EngineeringCo., Ltd [Snibe], Shenzhen, China)
A total of 8285 health care workers were tested. SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies (IgM, IgG or both) were detectable in 378 cases (4.6%, 95% CI 4.1-5.0%). Seroconversion was observed in 4.4% women and 5% men, but the difference was not significant. Although detectable antibodies were found in all severe COVID-19 patients (100%), lower seropositivity was found in mild disease (83%) and the lowest prevalence (58%) was observed in asymptomatic subjects.
Seroprevalence surveys are of utmost importance for understanding the rate of population that has already developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The present study has the statistical power to define precisely the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in a cohort of health workers in our region, with its prevalence (4.6%) reflecting a relatively low circulation. Symptomatic individuals or those hospitalized for medical care were 100% antibody positive, whilst Abs were only detectable in 58% of asymptomatic carriers.