Seroprevalence of Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in Six Sites in the United States, March 23-May 3, 2020

Abstract

Importance: Reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection likely underestimate the prevalence of infection in affected communities. Large-scale seroprevalence studies provide better estimates of the proportion of the population previously infected. Objective: To estimate prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in convenience samples from several geographic sites in the United States. Design: Serologic testing of convenience samples using residual sera obtained for routine clinical testing by two commercial laboratory companies. Setting: Connecticut (CT), south Florida (FL), Missouri (MO), New York City metro region (NYC), Utah (UT), and Washington State's (WA) Puget Sound region. Participants: Persons of all ages with serum collected during intervals from March 23 through May 3, 2020. Exposure: SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. Main outcomes and measures: We estimated the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein using an ELISA assay. We standardized estimates to the site populations by age and sex. Estimates were adjusted for test performance characteristics (96.0% sensitivity and 99.3% specificity). We estimated the number of infections in each site by extrapolating seroprevalence to site populations. We compared estimated infections to number of reported COVID-19 cases as of last specimen collection date. Results: We tested sera from 11,933 persons. Adjusted estimates of the proportion of persons seroreactive to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein ranged from 1.13% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.70-1.94) in WA to 6.93% (95% CI 5.02-8.92) in NYC (collected March 23-April 1). For sites with later collection dates, estimates ranged from 1.85% (95% CI 1.00-3.23, collected April 6-10) for FL to 4.94% (95% CI 3.61-6.52) for CT (April 26-May 3). The estimated number of infections ranged from 6 to 24 times the number of reported cases in each site. Conclusions and relevance: Our seroprevalence estimates suggest that for five of six U.S. sites, from late March to early May 2020, >10 times more SARS-CoV-2 infections occurred than the number of reported cases. Seroprevalence and under-ascertainment varied by site and specimen collection period. Most specimens from each site had no evidence of antibody to SARS-CoV-2. Tracking population seroprevalence serially, in a variety of specific geographic sites, will inform models of transmission dynamics and guide future community-wide public health measures.

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