Low awareness of past SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthy plasma donors

Katja van den Hurk*, Eva Maria Merz, Femmeke J. Prinsze, Marloes L.C. Spekman, Franke A. Quee, Steven Ramondt, Ed Slot, Hans Vrielink, Elisabeth M.J. Huis in ’t Veld, Hans L. Zaaijer, Boris M. Hogema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Awareness of infection with SARS-CoV-2 is crucial for the effectiveness of COVID-19 control measures. Here, we investigate awareness of infection and symptoms in relation to antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in healthy plasma donors. We asked individuals donating plasma across the Netherlands between May 11th and 18th 2020 to report COVID-19-related symptoms, and we tested for antibodies indicative of a past infection with SARS-CoV-2. Among 3,676 with antibodies, and from questionnaire data, 239 (6.5%) are positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Of those, 48% suspect no COVID-19, despite the majority reporting symptoms; 11% of seropositive individuals report no symptoms and 27% very mild symptoms at any time during the first peak of the epidemic. Anosmia/ageusia and fever are most strongly associated with seropositivity. Almost half of seropositive individuals do not suspect SARS-CoV-2 infection. Improved recognition of COVID-19 symptoms, in particular, anosmia/ageusia and fever, is needed to reduce widespread SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100222
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalCell reports. Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date1 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study has been funded by Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation and the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The funder had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. K.v.d.H. and F.J.P. analyzed data. F.J.P. M.L.C.S. F.A.Q. S.R. and H.V. provided project support and organized participant recruitment. K.v.d.H. E.-M.M. E.S. E.M.J.H.i.V. H.L.Z. and B.M.H. designed and ran the study and wrote the manuscript. All of the authors critically revised and approved the final version of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • anosmia
  • antibodies
  • COVID-19
  • infection awareness
  • plasma donation
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • symptoms


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