Trends in SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Massachusetts estimated from newborn screening specimens

Clin Infect Dis. 2022 Feb 25;ciac158. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciac158. Online ahead of print.


Background: Estimating the cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 is essential for setting public health policies. We leveraged de-identified Massachusetts newborn screening specimens to generate an accessible, retrospective source of maternal antibodies for estimating statewide SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in a non-test-seeking population.

Methods: We analyzed 72,117 newborn dried blood spots collected from November 2019 through December 2020, representing 337 towns and cities across Massachusetts. Seroprevalence was estimated for the general Massachusetts population after correcting for imperfect test specificity and nonrepresentative sampling using Bayesian multilevel regression and poststratification.

Results: Statewide seroprevalence was estimated to be 0.03% (90% credible interval (CI) [0.00, 0.11]) in November 2019 and rose to 1.47% (90% CI [1.00, 2.13]) by May 2020, following sustained SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the spring. Seroprevalence plateaued from May onwards, reaching 2.15% (90% CI [1.56, 2.98]) in December 2020. Seroprevalence varied substantially by community and was particularly associated with community percent non-Hispanic Black (β = 0.024, 90% CI [0.004, 0.044]); i.e., a 10% increase in community percent non-Hispanic Black was associated with a 27% higher odds of seropositivity. Seroprevalence estimates had good concordance with reported case counts and wastewater surveillance for most of 2020, prior to the resurgence of transmission in winter.

Conclusions: Cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 protective antibody in Massachusetts was low as of December 2020, indicating that a substantial fraction of the population was still susceptible. Maternal seroprevalence data from newborn screening can inform longitudinal trends and identify cities and towns at highest risk, particularly in settings where widespread diagnostic testing is unavailable.

Keywords: Newborn screening; SARS-CoV-2; seroprevalence.