Analysis of current SARS?CoV?2 infection in a large population of blood donors evidenced that RNAemia is rare in plasma

AbstractBackground

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by asymptomatic individuals and by blood transfusion are important issues to understand to control the viral spread. In this work, we estimated the current SARS-CoV-2 infection rate in blood donors from Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Study design and methods

Saliva and blood samples were collected from 4103 blood donors from June 15 to September 30, 2020. Saliva samples were tested by real-time RT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2 in mini-pools of four samples. Individual samples were tested for positive or inconclusive pools, and positive donors had their plasma tested.

Results

Twenty-seven (0.66%) blood donors were positive for SARS-CoV-2 in their saliva, but their plasma was negative, except for one, who presented a high viral load in saliva and nasopharyngeal samples and RNAemia in the plasma close to the limit of detection. Fourteen (56%) positive blood donors reported mild symptoms related to COVID-19 after donation, but the viral load levels were not statistically different between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

Discussion

Despite the measures taken by Blood Centers to avoid blood donors with SARS-CoV-2 infection, asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers are able to donate. The risk of the virus transmission by transfusion seems to be negligible since plasma RNAemia was seen at a very low level in only one (3.7%) of the positive donors, but other studies must be performed to confirm this finding.