Detection, prevalence, and duration of humoral responses to SARS-CoV-2 under conditions of limited population exposure

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2020 Aug 15:2020.08.14.20174490. doi: 10.1101/2020.08.14.20174490.


We conducted an extensive serological study to quantify population-level exposure and define correlates of immunity against SARS-CoV-2. We found that relative to mild COVID-19 cases, individuals with severe disease exhibited elevated authentic virus-neutralizing titers and antibody levels against nucleocapsid (N) and the receptor binding domain (RBD) and the S2 region of spike protein. Unlike disease severity, age and sex played lesser roles in serological responses. All cases, including asymptomatic individuals, seroconverted by 2 weeks post-PCR confirmation. RBD- and S2-specific and neutralizing antibody titers remained elevated and stable for at least 2-3 months post-onset, whereas those against N were more variable with rapid declines in many samples. Testing of 5882 self-recruited members of the local community demonstrated that 1.24% of individuals showed antibody reactivity to RBD. However, 18% (13/73) of these putative seropositive samples failed to neutralize authentic SARS-CoV-2 virus. Each of the neutralizing, but only 1 of the non-neutralizing samples, also displayed potent reactivity to S2. Thus, inclusion of multiple independent assays markedly improved the accuracy of antibody tests in low seroprevalence communities and revealed differences in antibody kinetics depending on the viral antigen. In contrast to other reports, we conclude that immunity is durable for at least several months after SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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  • Preprint