Second Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Delhi, India: High Seroprevalence Not a Deterrent?

Cureus. 2021 Oct 24;13(10):e19000. doi: 10.7759/cureus.19000. eCollection 2021 Oct.


Background We report the findings of a large follow-up, community-based, cross-sectional serosurvey and correlate it with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test-positivity rate and the caseload observed between the peaks of the first and the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Delhi, India. Methodology Individuals aged five and above were recruited from 274 wards of the state (population approximately 19.6 million) from January 11 to January 22, 2021. A total of 100 participants each were included from all wards for a net sample size of approximately 28,000. A multistage sampling technique was employed to select participants for the household serosurvey. Anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies were detected by using the VITROS® (Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Raritan, NJ, USA) assay (90% sensitivity, 100% specificity). Results Antibody positivity was observed in 14,298 (50.76%) of 28,169 samples. The age, sex, and district population-weighted seroprevalence of the SARS-CoV-2 IgG was 50.52% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 49.94-51.10), and after adjustment for assay characteristics, it was 56.13% (95% CI = 55.49-56.77). On adjusted analysis, participants aged ≥50 years, of female gender, housewives, having ever lived in containment zones, urban slum dwellers, and diabetes or hypertensive patients had significantly higher odds of SARS-CoV-2 antibody positivity. The peak infection rate and the test-positivity rate since October 2020 were initially observed in mid-November 2020, with a subsequent steep declining trend, followed by a period of persistently low case burden lasting until the first week of March 2021. This was followed by a steady increase followed by an exponential surge in infections from April 2021 onward culminating in the second wave of the pandemic. Conclusions The presence of infection-induced immunity from SARS-CoV-2 even in more than one in two people can be ineffective in protecting the population. Despite such high seroprevalence, population susceptibility to COVID-19 can be accentuated by variants of concern having the ability for rapid transmission and depletion of antibody levels with the threat of recurrent infections, signifying the need for mass vaccination.

Keywords: antibody titer; covid-19; delhi; pandemic wave; serosurvey.