An evaluation of COVID-19 serological assays informs future diagnostics and exposure assessment

Nat Commun. 2020 Jul 6;11(1):3436. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17317-y.


The world is entering a new era of the COVID-19 pandemic in which there is an increasing call for reliable antibody testing. To support decision making on the deployment of serology for either population screening or diagnostics, we present a detailed comparison of serological COVID-19 assays. We show that among the selected assays there is a wide diversity in assay performance in different scenarios and when correlated to virus neutralizing antibodies. The Wantai ELISA detecting total immunoglobulins against the receptor binding domain of SARS CoV-2, has the best overall characteristics to detect functional antibodies in different stages and severity of disease, including the potential to set a cut-off indicating the presence of protective antibodies. The large variety of available serological assays requires proper assay validation before deciding on deployment of assays for specific applications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Serologic Tests / standards*


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral