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BACKGROUND: There has been a large influx of COVID-19 seroprevalence studies, but comparability between the seroprevalence estimates has been an issue because of heterogeneities in testing platforms and study methodology. One potential source of heterogeneity is the response or participation rate. METHODS: We conducted a review of participation rates (PR) in SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence studies collected by SeroTracker and examined their effect on the validity of study conclusions. PR was calculated as the count of participants for whom the investigators had collected a valid sample, divided by the number of people invited to participate in the study. A multivariable beta generalized linear model with logit link was fitted to determine if the PR of international household and community-based seroprevalence studies was associated with the factors of interest, from 1 December 2019 to 10 March 2021. RESULTS: We identified 90 papers based on screening and were able to calculate the PR for 35 out of 90 papers (39%), with a median PR of 70% and an interquartile range of 40.92; 61% of the studies did not report PR. CONCLUSIONS: Many SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence studies do not report PR. It is unclear what the median PR rate would be had a larger portion not had limitations in reporting. Low participation rates indicate limited representativeness of results. Non-probabilistic sampling frames were associated with higher participation rates but may be less representative. Standardized definitions of participation rate and data reporting necessary for the PR calculations are essential for understanding the representativeness of seroprevalence estimates in the population of interest.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Epidemiol

Publication Date





32 - 43


COVID-19, Response rate, SARS-CoV-2, diagnostic testing, participation rate, representativeness, sero-surveys, serology, seroprevalence, validity, Humans, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, Seroepidemiologic Studies, Linear Models, Research Design, Antibodies, Viral