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Serosurveillance for SARS-CoV-2 infection

National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

Date Funded:
  • 31 March, 2020

Project summary

Understanding the extent of community SARS-CoV-2 antibody prevalence by age group, sex and population in NSW.

What is the issue?

This project will provide information about the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Sydney, which can be used to inform public health policy, mathematical modelling to predict COVID-19 spread, and future health service needs. Seroprevalence, combined with emerging knowledge on protective immunity can also inform anticipated vaccination strategies.

Currently, the understanding of the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Sydney has been predominantly based on the identification of acute disease (COVID-19). This survey will provide a substantial improvement in our understanding of the true number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Sydney, including those who may not have presented for testing during their infection for a variety of reasons. It will also assist in providing a more accurate denominator for quantifying the rate of severe infections and outcomes from COVID-19 in Sydney.

What does the research aim to do and how?

NCIRS is co-leading the Australian COVID-19 Serosurveillance Network and a suite of serosurveys with the Kirby Institute to measure the prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in target populations. SARS-CoV-2 serosurveys are a key component of the Australian National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19 and are listed as a precedent condition necessary to inform public health measures in the Australia’s Pandemic Health Intelligence Plan. Findings from these serosurveys will be used to inform public health policy, vaccination strategies and mathematical models designed to predict future disease spread, associated morbidity and mortality, health service needs and COVID-19 vaccine introduction.

The project will estimate SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody seroprevalence among three subpopulations in Sydney following the first epidemic wave of COVID-19 in Australia:

  • 20-39-year-old women undergoing antenatal screening
  • 20-69-year-old plasmapheresis blood donors
  • people of all ages having blood tests at selected diagnostic pathology services (general pathology).

This will be a Cross-sectional study involving de-identified residual blood specimens collected through public and private laboratories and the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood between April and June 2020.

The study will identify the proportion of participants in each subpopulation testing positive for anti-SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibody after adjustment for test sensitivity and specificity.

A national serosurvey is also underway using residual blood specimens from blood donors, pregnant women and people undergoing general pathology testing from all states and territories.

More information

Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in Sydney, Australia following the first epidemic wave in 2020 article in The Medical Journal of Australia.

Serosurveillance for SAR-CoV-2 project summary on National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance website.

The best way to measure the spread of COVID-19 in a community article on NSW health and medical research website.