Using Dried Blood Spot Samples for SARS-CoV-2 Screening

Author: Mike Pattrick; Global Marketing Manager PerkinElmer

Screening large populations of individuals for viruses or diseases can be both a logistically daunting and expensive task. The need to collect venous samples requires either people to travel to a central location for phlebotomy or a qualified person needs to travel to multiple locations to collect blood to transport back to a central laboratory.  (Thevis, 2020)

With the emergence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) there is a new need to screen large populations for the associated antibodies of the virus to help track and trace the spread of infections. (WHO, 2020) When using traditional serological methods, the screening of SARS-CoV-2 comes with the added risk of moving people to a hospital or community setting for collecting samples, potentially overloading clinical settings during this pandemic.

Dried Blood Spots

The use of dried blood spots (DBS) samples for screening has been used for decades in newborn screening. Using DBS has enabled large populations to be screened, using an easily transportable, minimally invasive method, which has been easy both for parents of newborns and the health care professionals collecting the samples. (Thevis et al, 2020) Indeed dried blood spot sampling can be performed by individuals without the need for medical professionals, using a finger stick lancet to draw blood much as people with diabetes use for testing their blood sugar levels, with a minimal amount of instruction. The blood is then applied to a test card where it dries. This method enables samples to be shipped easily, without the need for cold chain logistics or any other special handling requirements. As the sample is dry it also reduces biohazard risks in transit and in the lab. (McDade 2020).  Additionally, by utilising DBS sampling large numbers of specimens can potentially be obtained in a relatively short time period as there is no ‘bottleneck’ in blood collection.

Strategic testing of a population is critical for understanding the spread of the pandemic and for potentially identifying the factors that may mitigate transmission. By using a DBS method to overcome the constraints of collecting samples, this goal becomes more achievable than ever before.


World Health Organization. Population-based age-stratified seroepidemiological investigation protocol for COVID-19 virus infection, 17 March 2020. World Health Organization;2020.

Thevis et al. Can dried blood spots (DBS) contribute to conducting comprehensive SARS‐CoV‐2 antibody tests? Drug Testing and Analysis, Vol 21 Issue 7 July 2020

McDade et al 2020, Enzyme immunoassay for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in dried blood spot samples: A minimally-invasive approach to facilitate community- and population-based screening. medRxiv 2020.04.28.20081844; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.28.20081844

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