Dried blood spot samples (DBS) provide an alternative sample type to venous blood samples for antibody testing. DBS are used by NHS for diagnosing Hepatitis C and by Public Health England for large scale HIV and Hepatitis C serosurveillance; the applicability of DBS based approaches for SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection is uncertain. The study aimed to compare antibody detection in DBS eluates using the Roche Elecsys ® immunoassay with antibody detection in paired plasma samples, using the same assay. The study was in one Police and one Fire & Rescue facility in England; it comprised of 195 participants within a larger sample COVID-19 serodiagnostics study of keyworkers, EDSAB-HOME. Outcome measures were sensitivity and specificity of DBS (the index test) relative to plasma (the reference test), at an experimental cut-off; quality of DBS sample collected; estimates of relative sensitivity of DBS vs. plasma immunoassay in a larger population. 18/195 (9.2%) participants tested positive using plasma samples. DBS sample quality varied markedly by phlebotomist, and low sample volume significantly reduced immunoassay signals. Using an experimental cut-off, sensitivity and specificity of DBS were 89.0% (95% CI 67.2, 96.9%) and 100.0% (95% CI 97.9, 100%) respectively compared with using plasma. The limit of detection for DBS is about 30 times higher than for plasma. DBS use for SARS-CoV-2 serology, though feasible, is insensitive relative to immunoassays on plasma. Sample quality impacts on assay performance. Alternatives, including the collection of capillary blood samples, should be considered for screening programs.
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