Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers in a large teaching hospital in the North West of England: a period prevalence survey

Shorten, Robert John, Haslam, Shonagh, Hurley, Margaret Anne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2502-432X, Rowbottom, Anthony, Myers, M, Wilkinson, Paul and Orr, David (2021) Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers in a large teaching hospital in the North West of England: a period prevalence survey. BMJ Open, 11 (3). e045384.

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Objectives: Since its emergence in late 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has caused a global pandemic that has significantly challenged healthcare systems. Healthcare workers have previously been shown to have experienced higher rates of infection than the general population. We aimed to assess the extent of infection in staff working in our healthcare setting. Design: A retrospective analysis of antibody results, compared with staff demographic data, and exposure to patients with COVID-19 infection. Setting: A large teaching hospital in the North West of England. Participants: 4474 staff in diverse clinical and non-patient facing roles who volunteered for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing by the Roche Elecsys assay between 29 May and 4 July 2020. Results: Seroprevalence was 17.4%. Higher rates were seen in Asian/Asian British (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.27 to 2.04) and Black/Black British (OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.25 to 3.45) staff. Staff working in any clinical location were more likely to be seropositive (OR 2.68, 95% 2.27 to 3.15). Staff were at an increased risk of seropositivity as the ‘per 100 COVID-19 bed-days change’ increased in the clinical area in which they worked (OR 1.12, 95% 1.10 to 1.14). Staff working in critical care were no more likely to have detectable antibodies than staff working in non-clinical areas. Symptoms compatible with COVID-19 were reported in 41.8% and antibodies were detected in 30.7% of these individuals. In staff who reported no symptoms, antibodies were detected in 7.7%. In all staff who had detectable antibodies, 25.2% reported no symptoms. Conclusions: Staff working in clinical areas where patients with COVID-19 were nursed were more likely to have detectable antibodies. The relationship between seropositivity in healthcare workers and the increase in ‘per 100 COVID-19 bed-days’ of the area in which they worked, although statistically significant, was weak, suggesting other contributing factors to the risk profile. Of staff with detectable antibodies and therefore evidence of prior infection, a quarter self-reported that they had experienced no compatible symptoms. This has implications for potential unrecorded transmission in both staff and patients.

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