High SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Karaganda, Kazakhstan before the launch of COVID-19 vaccination Journal Articles uri icon

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  • COVID-19 exposure in Central Asia appears underestimated and SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence data are urgently needed to inform ongoing vaccination efforts and other strategies to mitigate the regional pandemic. Here, in a pilot serologic study we assessed the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody-mediated immunity in a multi-ethnic cohort of public university employees in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Asymptomatic subjects (n = 100) were recruited prior to their first COVID-19 vaccination. Questionnaires were administered to capture a range of demographic and clinical characteristics. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected for SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR testing. Serological assays were performed to detect spike (S)-reactive IgG and IgA and to assess virus neutralization. Pre-pandemic samples were used to validate the assay positivity thresholds. S-IgG and -IgA seropositivity rates among SARS-CoV-2 PCR-negative participants (n = 100) were 42% (95% CI [32.2–52.3]) and 59% (95% CI [48.8–69.0]), respectively, and 64% (95% CI [53.4–73.1]) of the cohort tested positive for at least one of the antibodies. S-IgG titres correlated with virus neutralization activity, detectable in 49% of the tested subset with prior COVID-19 history. Serologically confirmed history of COVID-19 was associated with Kazakh ethnicity, but not with other ethnic minorities present in the cohort, and self-reported history of respiratory illness since March 2020. Overall, SARS-CoV-2 exposure in this cohort was ~15-fold higher compared to the reported all-time national and regional COVID-19 prevalence, consistent with recent studies of excess infection and death in Kazakhstan. Continuous serological surveillance provides important insights into COVID-19 transmission dynamics and may be used to better inform the regional public health response.


  • Kadyrova, Irina
  • Yegorov, Sergey
  • Negmetzhanov, Baurzhan
  • Kolesnikova, Yevgeniya
  • Kolesnichenko, Svetlana
  • Korshukov, Ilya
  • Akhmaltdinova, Lyudmila
  • Vazenmiller, Dmitriy
  • Stupina, Yelena
  • Kabildina, Naylya
  • Ashimova, Assem
  • Raimbekova, Aigul
  • Turmukhambetova, Anar
  • Miller, Matthew S
  • Hortelano, Gonzalo
  • Babenko, Dmitriy

publication date

  • 2022