Estimating the cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the infection fatality ratio in light of waning antibodies.


The estimated average time from seroconversion to seroreversion was 3-4 months. The estimated IFR was 1.1% (95% credible interval: 1.0-1.2%) in NYC and 1.4% (1.1-1.7%) in Connecticut. The estimated daily seroprevalence declined after a peak in the spring. The estimated cumulative incidence reached 26.8% (24.2-29.7%) and 8.8% (7.1-11.3%) at the end of September in NYC and Connecticut, higher than maximum seroprevalence measures (22.1% and 6.1%), respectively.

Serology tests can identify previous infections and facilitate estimation of the number of total infections. However, immunoglobulins targeting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have been reported to wane below the detectable level of serological assays. We estimate the cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection from serology studies, accounting for expected levels of antibody acquisition (seroconversion) and waning (seroreversion), and apply this framework using data from New York City (NYC) and Connecticut.

This study was supported by the US National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection is underestimated using cross-sectional serology data without adjustment for waning antibodies. Our approach can help quantify the magnitude of underestimation and adjust estimates for waning antibodies.

We estimated time from seroconversion to seroreversion and infection fatality ratio (IFR) using mortality data from March-October 2020 and population-level cross-sectional seroprevalence data from April-August 2020 in NYC and Connecticut. We then estimated the daily seroprevalence and cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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Joshua S. Weitz

Patton Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology