Prevalence of RT-qPCR-detected SARS-CoV-2 infection at schools: First results from the Austrian School-SARS-CoV-2 prospective cohort study

Peter Willeit (Corresponding author), Robert Krause, Bernd Lamprecht, Andrea Berghold, Buck Timothy Hanson, Evelyn Stelzl, Heribert Stoiber, Johannes Zuber, Robert Heinen, Alwin Köhler, David Bernhard, Wegene Borena, Christian Doppler, Dorothee von Laer, Hannes Schmidt, Johannes Pröll, Ivo Steinmetz, Michael Wagner (Corresponding author)

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Background: The role of schools in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is much debated. We aimed to quantify reliably the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infections at schools detected with reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-qPCR).

Methods: This nationwide prospective cohort study monitors a representative sample of pupils (grade 1-8) and teachers at Austrian schools throughout the school year 2020/2021. We repeatedly test participants for SARS-CoV-2 infection using a gargling solution and RT-qPCR. We herein report on the first two rounds of examinations. We used mixed-effects logistic regression to estimate odds ratios and robust 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

Findings: We analysed data on 10,734 participants from 245 schools (9465 pupils, 1269 teachers). Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection increased from 0.39% at round 1 (95% CI 028-0.55%, 28 September-22 October 2020) to 1.39% at round 2 (95% CI 1.04-1.85%, 10-16 November). Odds ratios for SARS-CoV-2 infection were 2.26 (95% CI 1.25-4.12, P = 0. 007) in regions with >500 vs

Interpretation: This monitoring study in Austrian schools revealed SARS-CoV-2 infection in 0.39%-1.39% of participants and identified associations of regional community incidence and social deprivation with higher prevalence. (C) 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100086
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Regional Health
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106022 Microbiology


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • infection at schools
  • Austrian School-SARS-CoV-2 prospective cohort study
  • prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infections at schools
  • gargling solution
  • RT-qPCR

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