Global seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies: A systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 23;16(6):e0252617. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252617. eCollection 2021.


BACKGROUND: Many studies report the seroprevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibodies. We aimed to synthesize seroprevalence data to better estimate the level and distribution of SARS-CoV-2 infection, identify high-risk groups, and inform public health decision making.

METHODS: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched publication databases, preprint servers, and grey literature sources for seroepidemiological study reports, from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. We included studies that reported a sample size, study date, location, and seroprevalence estimate. We corrected estimates for imperfect test accuracy with Bayesian measurement error models, conducted meta-analysis to identify demographic differences in the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and meta-regression to identify study-level factors associated with seroprevalence. We compared region-specific seroprevalence data to confirmed cumulative incidence. PROSPERO: CRD42020183634.

RESULTS: We identified 968 seroprevalence studies including 9.3 million participants in 74 countries. There were 472 studies (49%) at low or moderate risk of bias. Seroprevalence was low in the general population (median 4.5%, IQR 2.4-8.4%); however, it varied widely in specific populations from low (0.6% perinatal) to high (59% persons in assisted living and long-term care facilities). Median seroprevalence also varied by Global Burden of Disease region, from 0.6% in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania to 19.5% in Sub-Saharan Africa (p<0.001). National studies had lower seroprevalence estimates than regional and local studies (p<0.001). Compared to Caucasian persons, Black persons (prevalence ratio [RR] 3.37, 95% CI 2.64-4.29), Asian persons (RR 2.47, 95% CI 1.96-3.11), Indigenous persons (RR 5.47, 95% CI 1.01-32.6), and multi-racial persons (RR 1.89, 95% CI 1.60-2.24) were more likely to be seropositive. Seroprevalence was higher among people ages 18-64 compared to 65 and over (RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.11-1.45). Health care workers in contact with infected persons had a 2.10 times (95% CI 1.28-3.44) higher risk compared to health care workers without known contact. There was no difference in seroprevalence between sex groups. Seroprevalence estimates from national studies were a median 18.1 times (IQR 5.9-38.7) higher than the corresponding SARS-CoV-2 cumulative incidence, but there was large variation between Global Burden of Disease regions from 6.7 in South Asia to 602.5 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Notable methodological limitations of serosurveys included absent reporting of test information, no statistical correction for demographics or test sensitivity and specificity, use of non-probability sampling and use of non-representative sample frames.

DISCUSSION: Most of the population remains susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Public health measures must be improved to protect disproportionately affected groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, until vaccine-derived herd immunity is achieved. Improvements in serosurvey design and reporting are needed for ongoing monitoring of infection prevalence and the pandemic response.

PMID:34161316 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0252617