The survey found that only 16 per cent of those living outside the slums had been exposed to the virus, the low proportion likely the result of social distancing and lockdowns.
Coronavirus infections in India have passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000, but test results in the city of Mumbai have cast further doubt on official data in the world's second-most populous nation.
The BMC conducted the sero-survey with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Niti Aayog.
It found that 57% of the people tested in slum areas of Chembur, Matunga and Dahisar had been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
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Spread across 2.5 square km, Dharavi, considered as one of the largest slums in Asia, has a population over 6.5 lakh. He said that the prevalence of the virus was high in slums because of crowded dwellings, and much lower in residential areas due to physical distancing and better maintenance of hygiene. The higher prevalence of antibodies in slums could be because of the higher population density and common facilities shared between many people, including toilets and water pumps.
Infection fatality rate is different from cases fatality rate, which records deaths as a percentage of all confirmed positive cases, which have been clinically diagnosed through RT-PCR/antigen test. The study recommend the continued use of these measures as a new normal in all sections of the society, regardless of COVID-19 prevalence. We do not know the reason. Planned repeat surveys will provide information about infection spread in both slums and non-slums, and could inform about herd immunity.
"The jury is still out on that".
The population sero-surveys are also useful in indicating if the population has achieved or is approaching herd immunity against the disease.
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"This is a surprise, more people remain asymptomatic than we expected", said Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner.
The survey results suggested asymptomatic infections were "likely to be a high proportion of all infections" and also indicated the virus death rate was likely to be "very low", the study said.
Scientists believe the sample tested was "statistically robust" and representative. The survey involved a group of people undergoing blood tests to detect the presence of Immunoglobulin-G antibodies.
"But we believe the prevalence rate in other areas should not be terribly far away from the numbers in the survey", Dr Juneja said. What are the implications of the Delhi sero-survey findings?
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