Detection of neutralising antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 to determine population exposure in Scottish blood donors between March and May 2020


Craig P Thompson Nicholas E Grayson, Robert S Paton , Jai S Bolton , José Lourenço , Bridget S Penman, Lian N Lee2, Valerie Odon , Juthathip Mongkolsapaya6 , Senthil Chinnakannan , Wanwisa Dejnirattisai , Matthew Edmans , Alex Fyfe, Carol Imlach, Kreepa Kooblall , Nicholas Lim, Chang Liu, César López-Camacho , Carol McInally, Anna L McNaughton, Narayan Ramamurthy , Jeremy Ratcliff , Piyada Supasa , Oliver Sampson , Beibei Wang , Alexander J Mentzer, Marc Turner, Malcolm G Semple, Kenneth Baillie , ISARIC4C Investigators , Heli Harvala , Gavin R Screaton6 , Nigel Temperton , Paul Klenerman, Lisa M Jarvis , Sunetra Gupta, Peter Simmonds


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in late 2019 in Hubei province, China as a cause of respiratory disease occasionally leading to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) [1,2]. Older age, male sex, smoking and comorbidities such as cardiac disease, hypertension and diabetes have been identified as risk factors for severe infections [3,4].

Symptomatic individuals typically exhibit fever, cough and shortness of breath 2–14 days after infection [5]. However, an unknown proportion of individuals experience no symptoms [6-8]. Antibody responses in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals are detectable in the blood 14–28 days after infection [9,10]. Subsequently, antibody levels drop and can become undetectable by some antibody assays in the early convalescent phase [9,11,12].

In this study, we used blood donors as a means of estimating population exposure from the start of the pandemic in March through to mid-May when PCR-detected cases in the United Kingdom (UK) had plateaued [13,14]. The detection frequency of neutralising antibodies in blood donors and a discussion of its applicability for estimating population level exposure are presented.



Research Themes:

1. Patient Research for Public Health

2. Diagnostic and Host Response