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Use of dried blood spot samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection using the Roche Elecsys high throughput immunoassay

By Ranya Mulchandani, Ben Brown, Tim Brooks, Amanda Semper, Nicholas Machin, Ezra Linley, Ray Borrow, EDSAB-HOME Study Investigators, David Wyllie

Posted 21 Oct 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.19.20215228

BackgroundDried blood spot samples (DBS) provide an alternative sample type to venous blood samples for antibody testing. DBS are used by NHS for diagnosing HCV and by PHE for large scale HIV and Hepatitis C serosurveillance; the applicability of DBS based approaches to SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection is uncertain. ObjectiveTo compare antibody detection in dried blood spot eluates using the Roche Elecsys (R) immunoassay (index test) with antibody detection in paired plasma samples, using the same assay (reference test). SettingOne Police and one Fire & Rescue facility in England. Participants195 participants within a larger sample COVID-19 serodiagnostics study of keyworkers, EDSAB-HOME. Outcome MeasuresSensitivity and specificity of DBS (the index test) relative to plasma (the reference test), at an experimental cut-off; quality of DBS sample collected; estimates of relative sensitivity of DBS vs. plasma immunoassay in a larger population. Results18/195 (9.2%) participants tested positive using plasma samples. DBS sample quality varied markedly by phlebotomist, and low sample volume significantly reduced immunoassay signals. Using a cut-off of ten median absolute deviations above the immunoassay result with negative samples, sensitivity and specificity of DBS were 89.0% (95% CI 67.2, 96.9%) and 100.0% (95% CI 97.9, 100%) respectively compared with using plasma. The limit of detection for DBS is about 30 times higher than for plasma. ConclusionDBS use for SARS-CoV-2 serology, though feasible, is insensitive relative to immunoassays on plasma. Sample quality impacts on assay performance. Alternatives, including the collection of capillary blood samples, should be considered for screening programs.

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