Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Antibody Prevalence in Blood in a Large School Community Subject to a Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak: A Cross-sectional Study

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Jul 15;73(2):e458-e465. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa955.


Background: A severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak affecting 52 people from a large school community in Santiago, Chile, was identified (12 March) 9 days after the first case in the country. We assessed the magnitude of the outbreak and the role students and staff played using self-administered antibody detection tests and a self-administered survey.

Methods: The school was closed on 13 March, and the entire community was placed under quarantine. We implemented a home-delivery, self-administered, immunoglobin (Ig) G/IgM antibody test and survey to a classroom-stratified sample of students and all staff from 4-19 May. We aimed to determine the overall seroprevalence rates by age group, reported symptoms, and contact exposure, and to explore the dynamics of transmission.

Results: The antibody positivity rates were 9.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.2-11.8) for 1009 students and 16.6% (95% CI, 12.1-21.9) for 235 staff. Among students, positivity was associated with a younger age (P = .01), a lower grade level (P = .05), prior real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) positivity (P = .03), and a history of contact with a confirmed case (P < .001). Among staff, positivity was higher in teachers (P = .01) and in those previously RT-PCR positive (P < .001). Excluding RT-PCR-positive individuals, antibody positivity was associated with fever in adults and children (P = .02 and P = .002, respectively), abdominal pain in children (P = .001), and chest pain in adults (P = .02). Within antibody-positive individuals, 40% of students and 18% of staff reported no symptoms (P = .01).

Conclusions: Teachers were more affected during the outbreak and younger children were at a higher risk for infection, likely because index case(s) were teachers and/or parents from the preschool. Self-administered antibody testing, supervised remotely, proved to be a suitable and rapid tool. Our study provides useful information for school reopenings.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; antibodies; outbreak; school; seroprevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chile
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Schools
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies