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Sood N, Simon P, Ebner P, et al. Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2–Specific Antibodies Among Adults in Los Angeles County, California, on April 10-11, 2020. JAMA. 2020;323(23):2425–2427. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8279
Inadequate knowledge about the extent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic challenges public health response and planning. Most reports of confirmed cases rely on polymerase chain reaction–based testing of symptomatic patients.1 These estimates of confirmed cases miss individuals who have recovered from infection, with mild or no symptoms, and individuals with symptoms who have not been tested due to limited availability of tests.
We conducted serologic tests in a community sample to estimate cumulative incidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, as serologic tests identify both active and past infections.
This study was approved by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Institutional Review Board, and written informed consent was obtained.
We tested for SARS-CoV-2–specific antibodies using a lateral flow immunoassay test (Premier Biotech). Residents of Los Angeles County, California, within a 15-mile (24 km) radius of the testing site were eligible for participation. Participants were offered testing at 6 study sites on April 10 and April 11, 2020; those unable to come to the testing sites were offered in-home testing on April 13 and April 14, 2020.
We used a proprietary database representative of the county maintained by LRW Group, a market research firm, to select participants. A random sample of these residents was invited, with quotas for enrollment for subgroups based on age, sex, race, and ethnicity distribution of Los Angeles County residents. Participation was restricted to 1 adult per household. Each test was read by at least 2 study staff members.
We used these data to estimate the population prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The unweighted and weighted proportions of positive tests (either IgM or IgG) in the analysis sample were calculated. Because the sample differed on demographics and income distribution from Los Angeles County, weights were calculated to match the 2018 census on sex, race/ethnicity, and income. We then adjusted the weighted and unweighted proportion of positive results for accuracy of the test. Estimates of the sensitivity (82.7%; 95% CI, 76.0%-88.4%) and specificity (99.5%; 95% CI, 99.2%-99.7%) of the test kits were obtained from 16 different samples.2 95% Confidence intervals for unweighted data were estimated using exact binomial models and for weighted and adjusted estimates using bootstrap methods. We used Stata version 16 for the analysis.
Of 1952 individuals invited to participate in antibody testing, 1702 (87.2%) provided consent and 865 (50.9%) were tested. Those not tested could not schedule testing or did not appear. Two test results were inconclusive due to faulty test kits and were removed from the analysis sample. Of 863 adults included, 60% were women, 55% were aged 35 to 54 years old, 58% were white, and 43% had yearly household incomes greater than $100 000. Thirteen percent reported fever with cough, 9% fever with shortness of breath, and 6% loss of smell or taste (Table).
Thirty-five individuals (4.06% [exact binomial CI, 2.84%-5.60%]) tested positive. The fraction that tested positive varied by race/ethnicity, sex, and income (Table). The weighted proportion of participants who tested positive was 4.31% (bootstrap CI, 2.59%-6.24%). After adjusting for test sensitivity and specificity, the unweighted and weighted prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was 4.34% (bootstrap CI, 2.76%-6.07%) and 4.65% (bootstrap CI, 2.52%-7.07%), respectively.
In this community seroprevalence study in Los Angeles County, the prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 was 4.65%. The estimate implies that approximately 367 000 adults had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which is substantially greater than the 8430 cumulative number of confirmed infections in the county on April 10.3 Therefore, fatality rates based on confirmed cases may be higher than rates based on number of infections. In addition, contact tracing methods to limit the spread of infection will face considerable challenges.
This study has limitations. Selection bias is likely. The estimated prevalence may be biased due to nonresponse or that symptomatic persons may have been more likely to participate. Prevalence estimates could change with new information on the accuracy of test kits used. Also, the study was limited to 1 county. Serologic testing in other locations is warranted to track the progress of the epidemic.
Corresponding Author: Neeraj Sood, PhD, University of Southern California, University Park Campus, Verna & Peter Dauterive Hall, 635 Downey Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for Publication: May 1, 2020.
Published Online: May 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8279
Author Contributions: Dr Sood had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: All authors.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Sood, Simon, Ebner, Reynolds, Bendavid, Bhattacharya.
Drafting of the manuscript: Sood, Bendavid, Bhattacharya.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Sood, Simon, Reynolds, Bendavid, Bhattacharya.
Obtained funding: Sood, Eichner, Reynolds, Bendavid.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Sood, Simon, Ebner, Eichner, Reynolds, Bhattacharya.
Supervision: Sood, Simon, Ebner, Reynolds, Bhattacharya.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Sood reported receiving funding from Jedel Foundation, USC Schwarzenegger Institute, USC Lusk Center, USC President's Office, Catherine Ahmed, Brent Bayless, Carole King, Daniel Eichner, Regina Nordhal, Tore Nordhal, and Gauri Jauhar during the conduct of the study; and reported serving as a scientific advisor to Payssurance and Virta Health; serving as an expert witness for the American Medical Association and Goldman, Ismail, Tomaselli, Brennan, and Baum; serving as an international expert for the China Development Research Foundation and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; and receiving grants from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, Health Care Services Corporation, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute outside the submitted work. Drs Bhattacharya and Bendavid reported receiving support from Jedel Foundation and the Stanford COVID-19 Seroprevalence Studies Fund during the conduct of the study. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: We received partial financial support for this project through the Stanford COVID-19 Seroprevalence Studies fund. We acknowledge funding from USC Schwarzenegger Institute, USC Lusk Center, USC President’s Office, Jedel Foundation, LRW Group, Soap Box Sample, Foundation for Clean Competition, Partnership for Clean Competition, and several individual donors.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: Funding organizations and donors had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Additional Contributions: We thank Jim Tedrow, BS, MT, The Compliance Resource Group; Thomas Kupiec, PhD, ARL Bio Pharma Inc; Manish J. Butte, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles; Jason Brooks, LRW Group; and Thomas MaCurdy, Frank Wolak, and John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc, Stanford University, for contributing to study design. We thank Ricardo Basurto-Davila, PhD, and Irene Vidyanti, PhD, Los Angeles County Chief Information Office, for contributing to study design and data collection. We thank Kevin de Leon, BA, and Conyers Davis, MA, Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California; and Carole King, MEd, Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, for logistical support during data collection and securing funding. We thank John Walton Senterfitt and Alysia Kwon, ScM, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, for IRB support. We thank Elinor Gaida, MBA, MPH, and Jacqueline Rosales, BS, LRW Group, for contributing to recruiting and data collection. We thank Janelle Cyprich, BS, Acacia Hori, BA, Alexandra Obremskey, BS, Katharine B. Stiers, BA, Silena Te, BA, Omar Toubat, BA, and other medical student volunteers from USC Keck School of Medicine for contributions to data collection. None of the individuals acknowledged received compensation from the study team.
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