Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among workers of the public higher education institutions of Porto, Portugal: a cross-sectional study

Occup Environ Med. 2021 Jun 30;oemed-2021-107519. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2021-107519. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: To assess the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgM and IgG antibodies among workers of the three public higher education institutions of Porto, Portugal, up to July 2020.

Methods: A rapid point-of-care test for specific IgM and IgG antibodies of SARS-CoV-2 was offered to all workers (SD Biosensor STANDARD Q COVID-19 IgM/IgG Duo and STANDARD Q COVID-19 IgM/IgG Combo). Testing was performed and a questionnaire was completed by 4592 workers on a voluntary basis from 21 May to 31 July 2020. We computed the apparent IgM, IgG, and combined IgM or IgG prevalence, along with the true prevalence and 95% credible intervals (95% CrI) using Bayesian inference.

Results: We found an apparent prevalence of 3.1% for IgM, 1.0% for IgG and 3.9% for either. The estimated true prevalence was 2.0% (95% CrI 0.1% to 4.3%) for IgM, 0.6% (95% CrI 0.0% to 1.3%) for IgG, and 2.5% (95% CrI 0.1% to 5.3%) for IgM or IgG. A SARS-CoV-2 molecular diagnosis was reported by 21 (0.5%) workers; and of these, 90.5% had a reactive IgG result. Seroprevalence was higher among those reporting contacts with confirmed cases, having been quarantined, having a previous molecular negative test or having had symptoms.

Conclusions: The seroprevalence among workers from the three public higher education institutions of Porto after the first wave of the SARS-CoV-2 infection was similar to national estimates for the same age working population. However, the estimated true seroprevalence was approximately five times higher than the reported SARS-CoV-2 infection based on a molecular test.

Keywords: COVID-19; Epidemiology; Occupational Health; Public Health Surveillance.