Published on Wed Jul 15 2020

Low SARS-CoV-2 sero-prevalence based on anonymized residual sero-survey before and after first wave measures in British Columbia, Canada, March-May 2020

Skowronski, D. M., Sekirov, I., Sabaiduc, S., Zou, M., Morshed, M., Lawrence, D., Smolina, K., Ahmed, M. A., Galanis, E., Fraser, M., Singal, M., Naus, M., Patrick, D. M., Kaweski, S., Mill, C., Reyes, R. C., Kelly, M. T., Levett, P. N., Petric, M., Henry, B., Krajden, M.

Cross-sectional sampling of anonymized residual sera at the start and end of first-wave mitigation measures in British Columbia, Canada shows SARS-CoV-2 sero-prevalence below 1% throughout the winter-spring 2020. Findings indicate successful suppression of community transmission but also substantial residual susceptibility.

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Abstract

BackgroundThe province of British Columbia (BC) has been recognized for successful SARS-CoV-2 control, with surveillance data showing amongst the lowest case and death rates in Canada. We estimate sero-prevalence for two periods flanking the start (March) and end (May) of first-wave mitigation measures in BC. MethodsSerial cross-sectional sampling was conducted using anonymized residual sera obtained from an outpatient laboratory network, including children and adults in the Greater Vancouver Area (population [~]3 million) where community attack rates were expected to be highest. Screening used two chemiluminescent immuno-assays for spike (S1) and nucleocapsid antibodies. Samples sero-positive on either screening assay were assessed by a third assay targeting the S1 receptor binding domain plus a neutralization assay. Age-standardized sero-prevalence estimates were based on dual-assay positivity. The May sero-prevalence estimate was extrapolated to the source population to assess surveillance under-ascertainment, quantified as the ratio of estimated infections versus reported cases. ResultsSerum collection dates spanned March 5-13 and May 15-27, 2020. In March, two of 869 specimens were dual-assay positive, with age-standardized sero-prevalence of 0.28% (95%CI=0.03-0.95). Neither specimen had detectable neutralizing antibodies. In May, four of 885 specimens were dual-assay positive, with age-standardized sero-prevalence of 0.55% (95%CI=0.15-1.37%). All four specimens had detectable neutralizing antibodies. We estimate [~]8 times more infections than reported cases. ConclusionsLess than 1% of British Columbians had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 when first-wave mitigation measures were relaxed in May 2020. Our findings indicate successful suppression of community transmission in BC, but also substantial residual susceptibility. Further sero-survey snapshots are planned as the pandemic unfolds. Key pointsCross-sectional sampling of anonymized residual sera at the start and end of first-wave mitigation measures in British Columbia, Canada shows SARS-CoV-2 sero-prevalence below 1% throughout the winter-spring 2020. Findings indicate successful suppression of community transmission but also substantial residual susceptibility.