Repeated seroprevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies in a population-based sample from Geneva, Switzerland


Background: Assessing the burden of COVID-19 based on medically-attended case counts is suboptimal given its reliance on testing strategy, changing case definitions and the wide spectrum of disease presentation. Population-based serosurveys provide one avenue for estimating infection rates and monitoring the progression of the epidemic, overcoming many of these limitations. Methods: Taking advantage of a pool of adult participants from population-representative surveys conducted in Geneva, Switzerland, we implemented a study consisting of 8 weekly serosurveys among these participants and their household members older than 5 years. We tested each participant for anti-SARS-CoV-2-IgG antibodies using a commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Euroimmun AG, Lubeck, Germany). We estimated seroprevalence using a Bayesian regression model taking into account test performance and adjusting for the age and sex of Geneva's population. Results: In the first three weeks, we enrolled 1335 participants coming from 633 households, with 16% <20 years of age and 53.6% female, a distribution similar to that of Geneva. In the first week, we estimated a seroprevalence of 3.1% (95% CI 0.2-5.99, n=343). This increased to 6.1% (95% CI 2.6-9.33, n=416) in the second, and to 9.7% (95% CI 6.1-13.11, n=576) in the third week. We found that 5-19 year-olds (6.0%, 95% CI 2.3-10.2%) had similar seroprevalence to 20-49 year olds (8.5%, 95%CI 4.99-11.7), while significantly lower seroprevalence was observed among those 50 and older (3.7%, 95% CI 0.99-6.0, p=0.0008). Interpretation: Assuming that the presence of IgG antibodies is at least in the short-term associated with immunity, these results highlight that the epidemic is far from burning out simply due to herd immunity. Further, no differences in seroprevalence between children and middle age adults are observed. These results must be considered as Switzerland and the world look towards easing restrictions aimed at curbing transmission.