Background: The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a newly emerging virus. The antibody response in infected patient remains largely unknown, and the clinical values of antibody testing have not been fully demonstrated.
Methods: A total of 173 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection were enrolled. Their serial plasma samples (n=535) collected during the hospitalization were tested for total antibodies (Ab), IgM and IgG against SARS-CoV-2. The dynamics of antibodies with the disease progress was analyzed.
Results: Among 173 patients, the seroconversion rate for Ab, IgM and IgG was 93.1%, 82.7% and 64.7%, respectively. The reason for the negative antibody findings in 12 patients might due to the lack of blood samples at the later stage of illness. The median seroconversion time for Ab, IgM and then IgG were day-11, day-12 and day-14, separately. The presence of antibodies was <40% among patients within 1-week since onset, and rapidly increased to 100.0% (Ab), 94.3% (IgM) and 79.8% (IgG) since day-15 after onset. In contrast, RNA detectability decreased from 66.7% (58/87) in samples collected before day-7 to 45.5% (25/55) during day 15-39. Combining RNA and antibody detections significantly improved the sensitivity of pathogenic diagnosis for COVID-19 (p<0.001), even in early phase of 1-week since onset (p=0.007). Moreover, a higher titer of Ab was independently associated with a worse clinical classification (p=0.006).
Conclusions: The antibody detection offers vital clinical information during the course of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The findings provide strong empirical support for the routine application of serological testing in the diagnosis and management of COVID-19 patients.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antibody.
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