Development and Implementation of Dried Blood Spot-based COVID-19 Serological Assays for Epidemiologic Studies
Marcus P. Wong,
Brett M Hirsch,
Michael Paul Busch,
Posted 28 Nov 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.25.21266786
Posted 28 Nov 2021
Serological surveillance studies of infectious diseases provide population-level estimates of infection and antibody prevalence, generating crucial insight into population-level immunity, risk factors leading to infection, and effectiveness of public health measures. These studies traditionally rely on detection of pathogen-specific antibodies in samples derived from venipuncture, an expensive and logistically challenging aspect of serological surveillance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines implemented to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection made collection of venous blood logistically difficult at a time when SARS-CoV-2 serosurveillance was urgently needed. Dried blood spots (DBS) have generated interest as an alternative to venous blood for SARS-CoV-2 serological applications due to their stability, low cost, and ease of collection; DBS samples can be self-generated via fingerprick by community members and mailed at ambient temperatures. Here, we detail the development of four DBS-based SARS-CoV-2 serological methods and demonstrate their implementation in a large serological survey of community members from 12 cities in the East Bay region of the San Francisco metropolitan area using at-home DBS collection. We find that DBS perform similarly to plasma/serum in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and commercial SARS-CoV-2 serological assays. In addition, we show that DBS samples can reliably detect antibody responses months post-infection and track antibody kinetics after vaccination. Implementation of DBS enabled collection of valuable serological data from our study population to investigate changes in seroprevalence over an eight-month period. Our work makes a strong argument for the implementation of DBS in serological studies, not just for SARS-CoV-2, but any situation where phlebotomy is inaccessible.
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