Int J Epidemiol

. 2021 Jan 12;dyaa277.
doi: 10.1093/ije/dyaa277. Online ahead of print.
Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in over 6000 healthcare workers in Spain

Jose F Varona 1 2 , Rodrigo Madurga 3 4 , Francisco Peñalver 5 , Elena Abarca 6 , Cristina Almirall 6 , Marta Cruz 6 , Enrique Ramos 6 , Jose María Castellano Vázquez 2 3



Background: Spain has one of the highest incidences of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) worldwide, so Spanish health care workers (HCW) are at high risk of exposure. Our objective was to determine severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody seroprevalence amongst HCW and factors associated with seropositivity.
Methods: A cross-sectional study evaluating 6190 workers (97.8% of the total workforce of a healthcare-system of 17 hospitals across four regions in Spain) was carried out between April and June 2020, by measuring immunoglobulin G (IgG)-SARS-CoV-2 antibody titres and related clinical data. Exposure risk was categorized as high (clinical environment; prolonged/direct contact with patients), moderate (clinical environment; non-intense/no patient contact) and low (non-clinical environment).
Results: A total of 6038 employees (mean age 43.8 years; 71% female) were included in the final analysis. A total of 662 (11.0%) were seropositive for IgG against SARS-CoV-2 (39.4% asymptomatic). Adding available PCR-testing, 713 (11.8%) employees showed evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, before antibody testing, 482 of them (67%) had no previous diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2-infection. Seroprevalence was higher in high- and moderate-risk exposure (12.1 and 11.4%, respectively) compared with low-grade risk subjects (7.2%), and in Madrid (13.8%) compared with Barcelona (7.6%) and Coruña (2.0%). High-risk [odds ratio (OR): 2.06; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.63-2.62] and moderate-risk (OR: 1.77; 95% CI: 1.32-2.37) exposures were associated with positive IgG-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies after adjusting for region, age and sex. Higher antibody titres were observed in moderate-severe disease (median antibody-titre: 13.7 AU/mL) compared with mild (6.4 AU/mL) and asymptomatic (5.1 AU/mL) infection, and also in older (>60 years: 11.8 AU/mL) compared with younger (<30 years: 4.2 AU/mL) people.
Conclusions: Seroprevalence of IgG-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in HCW is a little higher than in the general population and varies depending on regional COVID-19 incidence. The high rates of subclinical and previously undiagnosed infection observed in this study reinforce the utility of antibody screening. An occupational risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection related to working in a clinical environment was demonstrated in this HCW cohort.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; healthcare workers; seroprevalence.