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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-20213116


BackgroundAssessment of cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections is critical for monitoring the course and the extent of the epidemic. As asymptomatic or mild cases were typically not captured by surveillance data in France, we implemented nationwide serological surveillance. We present estimates for prevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the French population and the proportion of infected individuals who developed potentially protective neutralizing antibodies throughout the first epidemic wave. MethodsWe performed serial cross-sectional sampling of residual sera over three periods: prior to (9-15 March), during (6-12 April) and following (11-17 May) a nationwide lockdown. Each sample was tested for anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies targeting the Nucleoprotein and Spike using two Luciferase-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assays, and for neutralising antibodies using a pseudo-neutralisation assay. We fitted a general linear mixed model of seropositivity in a Bayesian framework to derive prevalence estimates stratified by age, sex and region. FindingsIn total, sera from 11 021 individuals were analysed. Nationwide seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was estimated at 0.41% [0.05-0.88] mid-March, 4.14% [3.31-4.99] mid-April and 4.93% [4.02-5.89] mid-May. Approximately 70% of seropositive individuals had detectable neutralising antibodies. Seroprevalence was higher in regions where circulation occurred earlier and was more intense. Seroprevalence was lowest in children under 10 years of age (2.72% [1.10-4.87]). InterpretationSeroprevalence estimates confirm that the nationwide lockdown substantially curbed transmission and that the vast majority of the French population remains susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Low seroprevalence in school age children suggests limited susceptibility and/or transmissibility in this age group. Our results show a clear picture of the progression of the first epidemic wave and provide a framework to inform the ongoing public health response as viral transmission is picking up again in France and globally. FundingSante publique France.