Estimates and Determinants of SARS-Cov-2 Seroprevalence and Infection Fatality Ratio Using Latent Class Analysis: The Population-Based Tirschenreuth Study in the Hardest-Hit German County in Spring 2020

Viruses. 2021 Jun 10;13(6):1118. doi: 10.3390/v13061118.


SARS-CoV-2 infection fatality ratios (IFR) remain controversially discussed with implications for political measures. The German county of Tirschenreuth suffered a severe SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in spring 2020, with particularly high case fatality ratio (CFR). To estimate seroprevalence, underreported infections, and IFR for the Tirschenreuth population aged ≥14 years in June/July 2020, we conducted a population-based study including home visits for the elderly, and analyzed 4203 participants for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies via three antibody tests. Latent class analysis yielded 8.6% standardized county-wide seroprevalence, a factor of underreported infections of 5.0, and 2.5% overall IFR. Seroprevalence was two-fold higher among medical workers and one third among current smokers with similar proportions of registered infections. While seroprevalence did not show an age-trend, the factor of underreported infections was 12.2 in the young versus 1.7 for ≥85-year-old. Age-specific IFRs were <0.5% below 60 years of age, 1.0% for age 60-69, and 13.2% for age 70+. Senior care homes accounted for 45% of COVID-19-related deaths, reflected by an IFR of 7.5% among individuals aged 70+ and an overall IFR of 1.4% when excluding senior care home residents from our computation. Our data underscore senior care home infections as key determinant of IFR additionally to age, insufficient targeted testing in the young, and the need for further investigations on behavioral or molecular causes of the fewer infections among current smokers.

Keywords: CLIA; ELISA; SARS-CoV-2; antibodies; infection fatality ratio; latent class analysis; senior care homes; seroprevalence; smoking; underreported infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / mortality*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Seasons
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral