SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in students and teachers: a longitudinal study from May to October 2020 in German secondary schools

BMJ Open. 2021 Jun 10;11(6):e049876. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049876.


OBJECTIVE: To quantify the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in secondary schools after their reopening in May 2020.

DESIGN: Repeated SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence study after the reopening of schools and 4 months later.

SETTING: Secondary school in Dresden, Germany.

PARTICIPANTS: 1538 students grades 8-12 and 507 teachers from 13 schools.

INTERVENTIONS: Serial blood sampling and SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody assessment.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURE: Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in study population. Number of undetected cases.

RESULTS: 1538 students and 507 teachers were initially enrolled, and 1334 students and 445 teachers completed both study visits. The seroprevalence for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was 0.6% in May/June and the same in September/October. Even in schools with reported COVID-19 cases before the lockdown of 13 March, no clusters could be identified. Of 12 persons with positive serology five had a known history of confirmed COVID-19; 23 out of 24 participants with a household history of COVID-91 were seronegative.

CONCLUSIONS: Schools do not play a crucial role in driving the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in a low-prevalence setting. Transmission in families occurs very infrequently, and the number of unreported cases is low in this age group. These observations do not support school closures as a strategy fighting the pandemic in a low-prevalence setting.


PMID:34112645 | PMC:PMC8193693 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049876