Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in children: a prospective multicentre cohort study

Arch Dis Child. 2021 Jul;106(7):680-686. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2020-320558. Epub 2020 Nov 10.


Background: Studies based on molecular testing of oral/nasal swabs underestimate SARS-CoV-2 infection due to issues with test sensitivity, test timing and selection bias. The objective of this study was to report the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, consistent with previous infection.

Design: This multicentre observational cohort study, conducted between 16 April to 3 July 2020 at 5 UK sites, recruited children of healthcare workers, aged 2-15 years. Participants provided blood samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing and data were gathered regarding unwell contacts and symptoms.

Results: 1007 participants were enrolled, and 992 were included in the final analysis. The median age of participants was 10·1 years. There were 68 (6.9%) participants with positive SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests indicative of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Of these, 34/68 (50%) reported no symptoms prior to testing. The presence of antibodies and the mean antibody titre was not influenced by age. Following multivariable analysis four independent variables were identified as significantly associated with SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity: known infected household contact OR=10.9 (95% CI 6.1 to 19.6); fatigue OR=16.8 (95% CI 5.5 to 51.9); gastrointestinal symptoms OR=6.6 (95% CI 3.0 to 13.8); and changes in sense of smell or taste OR=10.0 (95% CI 2.4 to 11.4).

Discussion: Children demonstrated similar antibody titres in response to SARS-CoV-2 irrespective of age. Fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms and changes in sense of smell or taste were the symptoms most strongly associated with SARS-CoV-2 antibody positivity.

Trial registration number: NCT0434740.

Trial registration: NCT04347408.

Keywords: epidemiology; virology.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing / methods
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / immunology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / virology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Olfaction Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders* / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2* / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2* / isolation & purification
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Symptom Assessment / methods
  • Symptom Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Viral

Associated data