Sex, age, and hospitalization drive antibody responses in a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor population

J Clin Invest. 2020 Nov 2;130(11):6141-6150. doi: 10.1172/JCI142004.


Convalescent plasma is a leading treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but there is a paucity of data identifying its therapeutic efficacy. Among 126 potential convalescent plasma donors, the humoral immune response was evaluated using a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus neutralization assay with Vero-E6-TMPRSS2 cells; a commercial IgG and IgA ELISA to detect the spike (S) protein S1 domain (EUROIMMUN); IgA, IgG, and IgM indirect ELISAs to detect the full-length S protein or S receptor-binding domain (S-RBD); and an IgG avidity assay. We used multiple linear regression and predictive models to assess the correlations between antibody responses and demographic and clinical characteristics. IgG titers were greater than either IgM or IgA titers for S1, full-length S, and S-RBD in the overall population. Of the 126 plasma samples, 101 (80%) had detectable neutralizing antibody (nAb) titers. Using nAb titers as the reference, the IgG ELISAs confirmed 95%-98% of the nAb-positive samples, but 20%-32% of the nAb-negative samples were still IgG ELISA positive. Male sex, older age, and hospitalization for COVID-19 were associated with increased antibody responses across the serological assays. There was substantial heterogeneity in the antibody response among potential convalescent plasma donors, but sex, age, and hospitalization emerged as factors that can be used to identify individuals with a high likelihood of having strong antiviral antibody responses.

Keywords: COVID-19; Immunoglobulins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral* / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral* / immunology
  • Antibody Formation
  • Betacoronavirus* / immunology
  • Betacoronavirus* / metabolism
  • Blood Donors*
  • COVID-19
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Convalescence*
  • Coronavirus Infections* / blood
  • Coronavirus Infections* / immunology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / therapy
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / blood
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sex Factors
  • Vero Cells


  • Antibodies, Viral