Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: We aimed to measure SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in a cohort of healthcare workers (HCWs) during the first UK wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, explore risk factors associated with infection, and investigate the impact of antibody titres on assay sensitivity. Methods: HCWs at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (STH) were prospectively enrolled and sampled at two time points. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were tested using an in-house assay for IgG and IgA reactivity against Spike and Nucleoprotein (sensitivity 99·47%, specificity 99·56%). Data were analysed using three statistical models: a seroprevalence model, an antibody kinetics model, and a heterogeneous sensitivity model. Findings: As of 12th June 2020, 24·4% (n=311/1275) HCWs were seropositive. Of these, 39·2% (n=122/311) were asymptomatic. The highest adjusted seroprevalence was measured in HCWs on the Acute Medical Unit (41·1%, 95% CrI 30·0-52·9) and in Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists (39·2%, 95% CrI 24·4-56·5). Older age groups showed overall higher median antibody titres. Further modelling suggests that, for a serological assay with an overall sensitivity of 80%, antibody titres may be markedly affected by differences in age, with sensitivity estimates of 89% in those over 60 years but 61% in those ≤30 years. Interpretation: HCWs in acute medical units working closely with COVID-19 patients were at highest risk of infection, though whether these are infections acquired from patients or other staff is unknown. Current serological assays may underestimate seroprevalence in younger age groups if validated using sera from older and/or more symptomatic individuals. Research in context: Evidence before this study: We searched PubMed for studies published up to March 6th 2021, using the terms "COVID", "SARS-CoV-2", "seroprevalence", and "healthcare workers", and in addition for articles of antibody titres in different age groups against coronaviruses using "coronavirus", "SARS-CoV-2, "antibody", "antibody tires", "COVID" and "age". We included studies that used serology to estimate prevalence in healthcare workers. SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence has been shown to be greater in healthcare workers working on acute medical units or within domestic services. Antibody levels against seasonal coronaviruses, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 were found to be higher in older adults, and patients who were hospitalised.Added value of this study: In this healthcare worker seroprevalence modelling study at a large NHS foundation trust, we confirm that those working on acute medical units, COVID-19 "Red Zones" and within domestic services are most likely to be seropositive. Furthermore, we show that physiotherapists and occupational therapists have an increased risk of COVID-19 infection. We also confirm that antibody titres are greater in older individuals, even in the context of non-hospitalised cases. Importantly, we demonstrate that this can result in age-specific sensitivity in serological assays, where lower antibody titres in younger individuals results in lower assay sensitivity.Implications of all the available evidence: There are distinct occupational roles and locations in hospitals where the risk of COVID-19 infection to healthcare workers is greatest, and this knowledge should be used to prioritise infection prevention control and other measures to protect healthcare workers. Serological assays may have different sensitivity profiles across different age groups, especially if assay validation was undertaken using samples from older and/or hospitalised patients, who tend to have higher antibody titres. Future seroprevalence studies should consider adjusting for age-specific assay sensitivities to estimate true seroprevalence rates. Author Contributions:

Original publication

DOI

10.1101/2021.07.07.21260151

Type

Journal article

Journal

medRxiv

Publication Date

08/07/2021