Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a newly discovered disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The present study studied the longitudinal profile of antibodies against SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in SARS patients and evaluated the clinical significance of these antibodies.
Methods: Two methods, ELISA and indirect immunofluorescent assay, were used for the detection of the anti-SARS-CoV IgG and IgM in 335 serial sera from 98 SARS patients. In 18 patients, serum antibody profiles were investigated and antibody neutralization tests were performed from 7 to 720 days after the onset of symptoms.
Results: The ratios of positive IgG/IgM by ELISA were 0/0, 45.4/39.4, 88.6/71.4, 96/88, 100/48.6, 100/30.9, 100/17.1, 100/0 per cent, respectively, on 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, 22-28, 29-60, 61-90, 91-180 and 181-720 days after the onset of symptoms. Antibodies were not detected within the first 7 days of illness, but IgG titre increased dramatically on day 15, reaching a peak on day 60, and remained high until day 180 from when it declined gradually until day 720. IgM was detected on day 15 and rapidly reached a peak, then declined gradually until it was undetectable on day 180. Neutralizing viral antibodies were demonstrated in the convalescence sera from SARS patients.
Conclusion: The persistence of detectable IgG antibodies and neutralizing viral antibodies for up to 720 days suggest that SARS patients may be protected from recurrent SARS-CoV infection for up to 2 years.