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Seropositivity in blood donors and pregnant women during the first year of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Stockholm, Sweden

By Xaquin Castro Dopico, Sandra Muschiol, Murray Christian, Leo Hanke, Daniel J Sheward, Nastasiya F Grinberg, Joanna E Rorbach, Gordana Bogdanovic, Gerald Mcinerney, Tobias Allander, Chris Wallace, Ben Murrell, Jan Albert, Gunilla B Karlsson Hedestam

Posted 26 Dec 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.24.20248821

In Sweden, social restrictions to contain SARS-CoV-2 have to date primarily relied upon voluntary adherence to a set of recommendations and strict lockdowns/regulations have not been enforced, potentially affecting viral dissemination. To understand the levels of past SARS-CoV-2 infection in the Stockholm population before the start of mass vaccinations, healthy blood donors and pregnant women (n=5,100) were sampled at random between 14th March 2020-28th February 2021. All individuals (n=200/sampling week) were screened for anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) trimer- and RBD-specific IgG responses and the results were compared with those from historical controls (n=595). Data were modelled using a probabilistic Bayesian framework that considered individual responses to both viral antigens. We found that after a steep rise at the start of the pandemic, the seroprevalence trajectory increased more steadily (over summer) in approach to the winter second-wave of infections, approaching 15% of all adults surveyed by mid-December 2020. The population seropositivity rate again increased more rapidly as cases rose over the winter period. By the end of February 2021, ~19% (~one-in-five) in this study group tested seropositive. Notably, 96% of random seropositive samples screened (n=56), displayed virus neutralizing responses, with titers comparable to those engendered by recently approved mRNA vaccines, supporting that milder infections generally provoke a competent B cell response. These data offer baseline information about the level of seropositivity in this group of active adults in the Stockholm metropolitan area following a full year of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and prior to the introduction of vaccines.

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