Survey reveals almost half of Australia has been infected with COVID-19 as of mid-June

The results of a new blood survey indicate that nearly every second Australian had COVID-19 in the six months leading up to June. 

Researchers at UNSW’s Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) have released the results of their most recent study into the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the wider community.

The research involved analysing 5139 de-identified blood donor specimens from around Australia from donations given from 9th to 18th June. Of those 46.2% showed signs of recent infection, up from around 17% the first time the study was conducted from 23rd February to 3rd March earlier this year.

The highest proportion of adults with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 was in Queensland (26%), followed by Victoria (23%) and NSW (21%), while WA had the lowest (0.5%).  

“The general pattern of antibody positivity in blood donors was consistent with the pattern in reported cases to the end of February 2022:  NSW, Victoria, and Queensland having had big outbreaks, and WA having very limited community transmission,” says Dr Dorothy Machalek, lead investigator on the project from the Kirby Institute. “Similarly, young blood donors had the highest rate of infection, matching higher reported case numbers in this age group.”

“As expected a very high proportion of the blood donors had antibody to the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus, with little variation by age group and sex. This was likely because of high vaccination rates among blood donors, as well as in the wider population.” says Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of NCIRS and Professor at The University of Sydney.

“Future rounds of the blood donor serosurvey will allow us to understand how many infections occur throughout 2022,” Prof Macartney says. “We are also conducting a second national paediatric serosurvey that started collection in June and this will give us better insights into transmission in children and teenagers.”

Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, said data collected from the surveys was “crucial for informing our pandemic response”.

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