SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic betacoronavirus associated with worldwide transmission of COVID-19 disease. By the beginning of March, WHO reported about 113,820,000 confirmed cases including more than 2,527,000 deaths all over the world. However, the true extent of virus circulation or its real infection/fatality ratio is not well-estimated due to the huge portion of asymptomatic infections. In this observational study, we have estimated the prevalence of specific immunoglobulin M and G directed towards SARS-CoV-2 antigen in a cohort of 1383 adult volunteers aged over 65 years old, living in the district of Benevento, in the South of Italy. Serological screening was carried out on capillary blood in September 2020, seven months after pandemic outbreak in Italy, to evaluate virus circulation and antibody response among elderly adults, in which severe symptoms due to viral infection are more common. The overall seroprevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was 4.70% (CI 3.70%-5.95%) with no statistically significant differences between sexes. Among these, 69.69% (CI 55.61%-77.80%) tested positive to IgM, 23.08% (CI 14.51%-34.64%) to IgG and 9.23% (CI 4.30%-18.71%) was positive for both. All patients that were positive to IgM underwent molecular testing through RT-qPCR on oral-rhino pharyngeal swabs and only one specimen was positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection. Instead, the presence of IgG from screened volunteers was confirmed by re-testing serum samples using both an ELISA assay validated for in vitro diagnostic use (IVD) and a recently published synthetic peptide-based ELISA assay. In conclusion, our report suggests that (1) early restrictions were successful in limiting COVID-19 diffusion in the district of Benevento; (2) rapid serological analysis is an ideal testing for both determining real seroprevalence and massive screening, whereas detection of viral RNA remains a gold standard for identification of infected patients; (3) even among people without COVID-19 related symptoms, the antibody response against SARS-CoV-2 antigens has individual features.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antibodies; serological test.