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Background: There are few primary care studies of the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to identify demographic and clinical risk factors for testing positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) within the Oxford Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre primary care network. Methods: We analysed routinely collected, pseudonymised data for patients in the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre primary care sentinel network who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 between Jan 28 and April 4, 2020. We used multivariable logistic regression models with multiple imputation to identify risk factors for positive SARS-CoV-2 tests within this surveillance network. Findings: We identified 3802 SARS-CoV-2 test results, of which 587 were positive. In multivariable analysis, male sex was independently associated with testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 (296 [18·4%] of 1612 men vs 291 [13·3%] of 2190 women; adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·55, 95% CI 1·27–1·89). Adults were at increased risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 compared with children, and people aged 40–64 years were at greatest risk in the multivariable model (243 [18·5%] of 1316 adults aged 40–64 years vs 23 [4·6%] of 499 children; adjusted OR 5·36, 95% CI 3·28–8·76). Compared with white people, the adjusted odds of a positive test were greater in black people (388 [15·5%] of 2497 white people vs 36 [62·1%] of 58 black people; adjusted OR 4·75, 95% CI 2·65–8·51). People living in urban areas versus rural areas (476 [26·2%] of 1816 in urban areas vs 111 [5·6%] of 1986 in rural areas; adjusted OR 4·59, 95% CI 3·57–5·90) and in more deprived areas (197 [29·5%] of 668 in most deprived vs 143 [7·7%] of 1855 in least deprived; adjusted OR 2·03, 95% CI 1·51–2·71) were more likely to test positive. People with chronic kidney disease were more likely to test positive in the adjusted analysis (68 [32·9%] of 207 with chronic kidney disease vs 519 [14·4%] of 3595 without; adjusted OR 1·91, 95% CI 1·31–2·78), but there was no significant association with other chronic conditions in that analysis. We found increased odds of a positive test among people who are obese (142 [20·9%] of 680 people with obesity vs 171 [13·2%] of 1296 normal-weight people; adjusted OR 1·41, 95% CI 1·04–1·91). Notably, active smoking was linked with decreased odds of a positive test result (47 [11·4%] of 413 active smokers vs 201 [17·9%] of 1125 non-smokers; adjusted OR 0·49, 95% CI 0·34–0·71). Interpretation: A positive SARS-CoV-2 test result in this primary care cohort was associated with similar risk factors as observed for severe outcomes of COVID-19 in hospital settings, except for smoking. We provide evidence of potential sociodemographic factors associated with a positive test, including deprivation, population density, ethnicity, and chronic kidney disease. Funding: Wellcome Trust.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet Infectious Diseases

Publication Date





1034 - 1042