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Nationally Representative Results on SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence and Testing in Germany at the End of 2020

Referierte Aufsätze Web of Science

Hannelore Neuhauser, Angelika Schaffrath Rosario, Hans Butschalowsky, Sebastian Haller, Jens Hoebel, Janine Michel, Andreas Nitsche, Christina Poethko-Müller, Franziska Prütz, Martin Schlaud, Hans Walter Steinhauer, Hendrik Wilking, Lothar H. Wieler, Lars Schaade, Stefan Liebig, Antje Gößwald, Markus M. Grabka, Sabine Zinn, Thomas Ziese

In: Scientific Reports 12 (2022), 19492, 13 S.


Pre-vaccine SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence data from Germany are scarce outside hotspots, and socioeconomic disparities remained largely unexplored. The nationwide representative RKI-SOEP study (15,122 participants, 18–99 years, 54% women) investigated seroprevalence and testing in a supplementary wave of the Socio-Economic-Panel conducted predominantly in October–November 2020. Self-collected oral-nasal swabs were PCR-positive in 0.4% and Euroimmun anti-SARS-CoV-2-S1-IgG ELISA from dry-capillary-blood antibody-positive in 1.3% (95% CI 0.9–1.7%, population-weighted, corrected for sensitivity = 0.811, specificity = 0.997). Seroprevalence was 1.7% (95% CI 1.2–2.3%) when additionally correcting for antibody decay. Overall infection prevalence including self-reports was 2.1%. We estimate 45% (95% CI 21–60%) undetected cases and lower detection in socioeconomically deprived districts. Prior SARS-CoV-2 testing was reported by 18% from the lower educational group vs. 25% and 26% from the medium and high educational group (p < 0.001, global test over three categories). Symptom-triggered test frequency was similar across educational groups. Routine testing was more common in low-educated adults, whereas travel-related testing and testing after contact with infected persons was more common in highly educated groups. This countrywide very low pre-vaccine seroprevalence in Germany at the end of 2020 can serve to evaluate the containment strategy. Our findings on social disparities indicate improvement potential in pandemic planning for people in socially disadvantaged circumstances.

Sabine Zinn

Vice Director SOEP and Division Head Survey Methodology and Management in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department

Hans Walter Steinhauer

Survey Statistician in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department

Markus M. Grabka

Board of Directors SOEP and Acting Division Head Knowledge Transfer in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department