This article was originally published here
mSphere. 2022 May 19:e0084121. doi: 10.1128/msphere.00841-21. Online ahead of print.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused millions of deaths around the world within the past 2 years. Transmission within the United States has been heterogeneously distributed by geography and social factors with little data from North Carolina. Here, we describe results from a weekly cross-sectional study of 12,471 unique hospital remnant samples from 19 April to 26 December 2020 collected by four clinical sites within the University of North Carolina Health system, with a majority of samples from urban, outpatient populations in central North Carolina. We employed a Bayesian inference model to calculate SARS-CoV-2 spike protein immunoglobulin prevalence estimates and conditional odds ratios for seropositivity. Furthermore, we analyzed a subset of these seropositive samples for neutralizing antibodies. We observed an increase in seroprevalence from 2.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8 to 4.5) to 12.8 (95% CI, 10.6 to 15.2) over the course of the study. Latinx individuals had the highest odds ratio of SARS-CoV-2 exposure at 6.56 (95% CI, 4.66 to 9.44). Our findings aid in quantifying the degree of asymmetric SARS-CoV-2 exposure by ethnoracial grouping. We also find that 49% of a subset of seropositive individuals had detectable neutralizing antibodies, which was skewed toward those with recent respiratory infection symptoms. IMPORTANCE PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases underestimate true prevalence. Few robust community-level SARS-CoV-2 ethnoracial and overall prevalence estimates have been published for North Carolina in 2020. Mortality has been concentrated among ethnoracial minorities and may result from a high likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, which we observe was particularly high among Latinx individuals in North Carolina. Additionally, neutralizing antibody titers are a known correlate of protection. Our observation that development of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies may be inconsistent and dependent on severity of symptoms makes vaccination a high priority despite prior exposure.