SARS-CoV-2 antibody prevalence in Brazil: results from two successive nationwide serological household surveys

Lancet Glob Health. 2020 Nov;8(11):e1390-e1398. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30387-9. Epub 2020 Sep 23.


Background: Population-based data on COVID-19 are essential for guiding policies. There are few such studies, particularly from low or middle-income countries. Brazil is currently a hotspot for COVID-19 globally. We aimed to investigate severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody prevalence by city and according to sex, age, ethnicity group, and socioeconomic status, and compare seroprevalence estimates with official statistics on deaths and cases.

Methods: In this repeated cross-sectional study, we did two seroprevalence surveys in 133 sentinel cities in all Brazilian states. We randomly selected households and randomly selected one individual from all household members. We excluded children younger than 1 year. Presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 was assessed using a lateral flow point-of-care test, the WONDFO SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test (Wondfo Biotech, Guangzhou, China), using two drops of blood from finger prick samples. This lateral-flow assay detects IgG and IgM isotypes that are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain of the spike protein. Participants also answered short questionnaires on sociodemographic information (sex, age, education, ethnicity, household size, and household assets) and compliance with physical distancing measures.

Findings: We included 25 025 participants in the first survey (May 14-21) and 31 165 in the second (June 4-7). For the 83 (62%) cities with sample sizes of more than 200 participants in both surveys, the pooled seroprevalence increased from 1·9% (95% CI 1·7-2·1) to 3·1% (2·8-3·4). City-level prevalence ranged from 0% to 25·4% in both surveys. 11 (69%) of 16 cities with prevalence above 2·0% in the first survey were located in a stretch along a 2000 km of the Amazon river in the northern region. In the second survey, we found 34 cities with prevalence above 2·0%, which included the same 11 Amazon cities plus 14 from the northeast region, where prevalence was increasing rapidly. Prevalence levels were lower in the south and centre-west, and intermediate in the southeast, where the highest level was found in Rio de Janeiro (7·5% [4·2-12·2]). In the second survey, prevalence was similar in men and women, but an increased prevalence was observed in participants aged 20-59 years and those living in crowded conditions (4·4% [3·5-5·6] for those living with households with six or more people). Prevalence among Indigenous people was 6·4% (4·1-9·4) compared with 1·4% (1·2-1·7) among White people. Prevalence in the poorest socioeconomic quintile was 3·7% (3·2-4·3) compared with 1·7% (1·4-2·2) in the wealthiest quintile.

Interpretation: Antibody prevalence was highly heterogeneous by country region, with rapid initial escalation in Brazil's north and northeast. Prevalence is strongly associated with Indigenous ancestry and low socioeconomic status. These population subgroups are unlikely to be protected if the policy response to the pandemic by the national government continues to downplay scientific evidence.

Funding: Brazilian Ministry of Health, Instituto Serrapilheira, Brazilian Collective Health Association, and the JBS Fazer o Bem Faz Bem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Betacoronavirus / immunology*
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / blood*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / ethnology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / blood*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral