Risk of Reinfection After Seroconversion to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2): A Population-based Propensity-score Matched Cohort Study

Leidi A, Koegler F, Dumont R, Dubos R, Zaballa ME, Piumatti G, Coen M, Berner A, Darbellay Farhoumand P, Vetter P, Vuilleumier N, Kaiser L, Courvoisier D, Azman AS, Guessous I, Stringhini S,


Serological assays detecting anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibodies are being widely deployed in studies and clinical practice. However, the duration and effectiveness of the protection conferred by the immune response remains to be assessed in population-based samples. To estimate the incidence of newly acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections in seropositive individuals as compared to seronegative controls, we conducted a retrospective longitudinal matched study.


A seroprevalence survey including a representative sample of the population was conducted in Geneva, Switzerland, between April and June 2020, immediately after the first pandemic wave. Seropositive participants were matched one-to-two to seronegative controls, using a propensity-score including age, gender, immunodeficiency, body mass index (BMI), smoking status, and education level. Each individual was linked to a state-registry of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Our primary outcome was confirmed infections occurring from serological status assessment to the end of the second pandemic wave (January 2021).


Among 8344 serosurvey participants, 498 seropositive individuals were selected and matched with 996 seronegative controls. After a mean follow-up of 35.6 (standard deviation [SD] 3.2) weeks, 7 out of 498 (1.4%) seropositive subjects had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, of whom 5 (1.0%) were classified as reinfections. In contrast, the infection rate was higher in seronegative individuals (15.5%, 154/996) during a similar follow-up period (mean 34.7 [SD 3.2] weeks), corresponding to a 94% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 86%- 98%, P < .001) reduction in the hazard of having a positive SARS-CoV-2 test for seropositives.


Seroconversion after SARS-CoV-2 infection confers protection against reinfection lasting at least 8 months. These findings could help global health authorities establishing priority for vaccine allocation.