A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) seroprevalence study shows that 3.5% of Arkansans have had COVID-19, roughly the same percentage of population of the 104,135 known cumulative cases reported Friday (Oct. 23) by the Arkansas Department of Health.
UAMS researcher Dr. Joshua Kennedy associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, along with Craig Forrest, Ph.D., and Karl Boehme, Ph.D., associate professors in the College of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology, have spearheaded an effort to analyze blood samples from Arkansans.
UAMS has eight other studies testing new therapies for COVID-19 either active or in startup.
One aspect of the study involved using remnant blood samples from patients who visit UAMS clinics, including three regional campus clinics, and have their blood drawn for health reasons other than COVID-19. The samples, which would be discarded otherwise, are being collected and shipped to UAMS from across the state for the antibody test, which was developed in the laboratories of Boehme and Forrest.
Of 1,220 adult blood samples tested so far, 43 were positive, or 3.5%. From this analysis, samples were collected in July and August, 2020. While low overall, Kennedy said, there are noteworthy differences across racial and ethnic groups:
Hispanic (13 of 73 positive = 17.8%)
Black/African American (21/501 = 4.19%)
White/Caucasian (7/550 = 1.27%)
Kennedy said “based on the data and statistical analysis to date, Hispanics/Latinx and Blacks/African Americans have a higher percentage of positive COVID-19 antibody tests. This relationship will need to be studied further for other factors that might influence these numbers. We hope to work through some of these issues over the next two waves of the study.”
Seroprevalence is the proportion of people in a population whose blood serum tests positive for a particular disease. Unlike diagnostic tests for COVID-19 the seroprevalence antibody testing looks back into the immune system’s history. A positive antibody test means the person was exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against the virus. It will give state leaders a good estimate of how many Arkansans have been infected with the virus since it first came to the state, even if they did not become ill or have symptoms, according to UAMS.
The study began this summer after UAMS researchers developed high-accuracy antibody testing methods. As part of the research program, UAMS is collecting blood samples from nearly 7,500 Arkansas adults and children. Arkansas Children’s is leading the pediatric component of the study. The UAMS College of Public Health is leading the epidemiology component of the study, using the contact tracing call center to enroll study participants and collect health histories and blood samples from individuals who represent the entire state.
The study is supported by $3.3 million in federal coronavirus aid that was then allocated by the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering Committee created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.