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Monitoring the proportion of the population infected by SARS-CoV-2

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

The Lancet Public Health

Hozé N, Paireau J, Lapidus N, Tran Kiem C, Salje H, Gianluca Severi, Touvier M, Zins M, de Lamballerie X, Lévy-Bruhl D, Carrat F, Cauchemez S Background

Regional monitoring of the proportion of the population who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 is important to guide local management of the epidemic, but is difficult in the absence of regular nationwide serosurveys. We aimed to estimate in near real time the proportion of adults who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2.


In this modelling study, we developed a method to reconstruct the proportion of adults who have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 and the proportion of infections being detected, using the joint analysis of age-stratified seroprevalence, hospitalisation, and case data, with deconvolution methods. We developed our method on a dataset consisting of seroprevalence estimates from 9782 participants (aged ≥20 years) in the two worst affected regions of France in May, 2020, and applied our approach to the 13 French metropolitan regions over the period March, 2020, to January, 2021. We validated our method externally using data from a national seroprevalence study done between May and June, 2020.


We estimate that 5·7% (95% CI 5·1–6·4) of adults in metropolitan France had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by May 11, 2020. This proportion remained stable until August, 2020, and increased to 14·9% (13·2–16·9) by Jan 15, 2021. With 26·5% (23·4–29·8) of adult residents having been infected in Île-de-France (Paris region) compared with 5·1% (4·5–5·8) in Brittany by January, 2021, regional variations remained large (coefficient of variation [CV] 0·50) although less so than in May, 2020 (CV 0·74). The proportion infected was twice as high (20·4%, 15·6–26·3) in 20–49-year-olds than in individuals aged 50 years or older (9·7%, 6·9–14·1). 40·2% (34·3–46·3) of infections in adults were detected in June to August, 2020, compared with 49·3% (42·9–55·9) in November, 2020, to January, 2021. Our regional estimates of seroprevalence were strongly correlated with the external validation dataset (coefficient of correlation 0·89).


Our simple approach to estimate the proportion of adults that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 can help to characterise the burden of SARS-CoV-2 infection, epidemic dynamics, and the performance of surveillance in different regions.

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