Abstract

Background - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a national lockdown was applied in Spain from March to May 2020. It is uncertain when SARS-CoV-2 started to circulate in Catalonia, and only a few cases were diagnosed in this period. We assessed the SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in blood donors before and after the first wave and compared it with public health service (PHS) data.
Materials and methods - Retrospective archive or prospective fresh blood samples were obtained from blood donors aged 18 to 70 and anonymized after demographic data had been recorded (gender, age, place of residence, blood collection date). Two CE-marked enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were used to test for anti-SARS-CoV-2. A SARS-CoV-2 IgM test was additionally performed in positive samples. Individuals aged 18 to 70 from among the general population diagnosed as having SARS-CoV-2 by the PHS were included for comparison with blood donor results.
Results - A total of 10,170 blood donations were included in the first period, between 24 February and 9 March 2020, and 6,829 in the second period, between 16 May and 17 June 2020. The observed SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence among blood donors rose from 0.27% (95% CI: 0.18-0.39) before the first wave to 5.55% (95% CI: 5.03-6.12) after it, and was even higher (6.90% [95% CI: 5.64-8.41]) among blood donors aged 18 to 29. The seroprevalence among blood donors was higher in more populated areas (Barcelona: 7.69%). A comparison of blood donor data with officially diagnosed cases showed a global 87.44% underestimation of SARS-CoV-2 in June 2020.
Discussion - We analyzed the explosive 3-month increase in blood donor SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence (from 0.27% to 5.55%) and show that more than 87% of cases went undiagnosed, despite the unprecedented deployment of testing measures. SARS-CoV-2 IgM results suggest that the virus was circulating among blood donors in February 2020. Blood donors are definitively proven
to be a valuable resource for emerging disease surveillance studies.

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Authors

Piron Maria - Blood and Tissue Bank, Transfusion Safety Laboratory, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Liver and Digestive Diseases (CIBERHED), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR), Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain

Mireia Jané - Public Health Agency of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Pilar Ciruela - Public Health Agency of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain

Luca Basile - Public Health Agency of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain

Ana Martínez - Public Health Agency of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain

Lluis Puig - Blood and Tissue Bank, Transfusion Safety Laboratory, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Liver and Digestive Diseases (CIBERHED), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain

Marta Bes - Blood and Tissue Bank, Transfusion Safety Laboratory, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Liver and Digestive Diseases (CIBERHED), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR), Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain

Silvia Sauleda - Blood and Tissue Bank, Transfusion Safety Laboratory, Barcelona, Spain; CIBER Liver and Digestive Diseases (CIBERHED), Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR), Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain

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