The dynamic changes of serum IgM and IgG against SARS-CoV-2 in patients with COVID-19

J Med Virol. 2021 Feb;93(2):924-933. doi: 10.1002/jmv.26353. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has become a worldwide pandemic since it emerged in December 2019. Previous studies have reported rapid antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in the first 2 to 3 weeks after symptom onset. Here, we retrospectively described the dynamic changes of serum immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG specifically against SARS-CoV-2 in later weeks (mainly 4-10 weeks) in 97 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. We observed that serum IgM and IgG, especially in patients with moderate-to-high levels, declined significantly between week 4 to 10 after illness onset. Notably, IgG levels in high percentage of patients (77.5%, 31 of 40) rapidly declined by half, from 212.5 (range, 163.7-420.3) to 96.3 (range, 75.0-133.4) AU/mL, within 1 to 2 weeks in the second month and then sustained at around 100 AU/mL until discharge from hospital. Significant reduction of IgM was also observed as SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid turned negative (P = .002). In the recovery stage, serum IgG declined significantly (early vs late recovery stage, n = 16, P = .003) with a median reduction of 50.0% (range, 3.7%-77.0%). Our results suggested that the decline of IgM may be an indicator of virus clearance and recovered patients may have a robust immunity against reinfection within at least 3 months after illness onset. Yet, the rapid reduction of IgG by half rises serious concerns on the robustness and sustainability of the humoral immune response in the period after discharge, which is crucial for immunity strategy and developing a vaccine.

Keywords: COVID-19; antibody response; dynamic changes; recovery stage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing
  • China
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M