Seroprevalence and correlates of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies from a population-based study in Bonn, Germany

Nat Commun. 2021 Apr 9;12(1):2117. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22351-5.


To estimate the seroprevalence and temporal course of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies, we embedded a multi-tiered seroprevalence survey within an ongoing community-based cohort study in Bonn, Germany. We first assessed anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G levels with an immunoassay, followed by confirmatory testing of borderline and positive test results with a recombinant spike-based immunofluorescence assay and a plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT). Those with a borderline or positive immunoassay result were retested after 4 to 5 months. At baseline, 4771 persons participated (88% response rate). Between April 24th and June 30th, 2020, seroprevalence was 0.97% (95% CI: 0.72-1.30) by immunoassay and 0.36% (95% CI: 0.21-0.61) when considering only those with two additional positive confirmatory tests. Importantly, about 20% of PRNT+ individuals lost their neutralizing antibodies within five months. Here, we show that neutralizing antibodies are detectable in only one third of those with a positive immunoassay result, and wane relatively quickly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutralization Tests / methods
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G