Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG Antibodies in Utsunomiya City, Greater Tokyo, after first pandemic in 2020 (U-CORONA): a household- and population-based study


Background: The number of confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in Japan are substantially lower in comparison to the US and UK, potentially due to the under-implementation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Studies reported that more than half of the SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic, confirming the importance for conducting seroepidemiological studies. Although the seroepidemiological studies in Japan observed a reported prevalence of 0.10% in Tokyo, 0.17% in Osaka, and 0.03% in Miyagi, sampling bias was not considered. The study objective was to assess the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in a random sample of households in Utsunomiya City in Tochigi Prefecture, Greater Tokyo, Japan. Methods: We launched the Utsunomiya COVID-19 seROprevalence Neighborhood Association (U-CORONA) Study to assess the seroprevalence of COVID-19 in Utsunomiya City. The survey was conducted between 14 June 2020 and 5 July 2020, in between the first and second wave of the pandemic. Invitations enclosed with a questionnaire were sent to 2,290 people in 1,000 households randomly selected from Utsunomiya basic resident registry. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants. The level of IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 was assessed by chemiluminescence immunoassay analysis. Results: Among 2,290 candidates, 753 returned the questionnaire and 742 received IgG tests (32.4 % participation rate). Of the 742 participants, 86.8% were 18 years or older, 52.6% were women, 71.1% were residing within 10 km from the test clinic, and 89.2% were living with another person. The age and sex distribution, distance to clinic and police district were similar with those of non-participants, while the proportion of single-person households was higher among non-participants than participants (16.2% vs. 10.8%). We confirmed three positive cases through quantitative antibody testing. No positive cases were found among the people who live in the same household as someone with positive. All cases were afebrile. The estimated unweighted and weighted prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection were 0.40% (95% confidence interval: 0.08-1.18%) and 1.23% (95% confidence interval: 0.17-2.28%), respectively. Conclusion: This study suggests the importance of detecting all cases using PCR or antigen testing, not only at a hospital, but also in areas where people assemble. Further prospective studies using this cohort are needed to monitor SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels.