Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in an entirely PCR-sampled and quarantined community after a COVID-19 outbreak - the CoNAN study


Background: Due to the substantial proportion of asymptomatic and mild courses many SARS-CoV-2 infections remain unreported. Therefore, assessment of seroprevalence may detect the real burden of disease. We aimed at determining and characterizing the rate of SARS-CoV-2 infections and the resulting immunity in a defined population. Methods: CoNAN is a population-based cohort study in the previously quarantined community Neustadt-am-Rennsteig, Germany six weeks after a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak with 49 cases identified by PCR screening of all 883 inhabitants. The primary objective of the study was to assess SARS-CoV-2 antibody seroconversion rate using six different IgG detecting immunoassays. Secondary objectives of the study were: i.) to determine the rate of seroconversion in children; ii.) to determine potential risk factors for symptomatic vs. asymptomatic Covid19 courses; iii.) to investigate the rate of virus persistence. Findings: We enrolled 626 participants (71% of the community population). All actual SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests were negative; while a total of 8.4% (52 of 620 tested) had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in at least two independent tests. Twenty of the antibody positive participants had previously a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR. On the contrary, of those 38 participants with SARS-CoV-2 infection, only 20 (52.6%) were antibody positive. Interpretation: Several antibody tests conducted six weeks after an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 did not detect all previously PCR-positive tested individuals. Cautious evaluation of antibody testing strategies to assess immunity against the infection is warranted.