Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2: Let's Stick to Known Knowns

J Immunol. 2020 Nov 1;205(9):2342-2350. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2000839. Epub 2020 Sep 4.


The scale of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has thrust immunology into the public spotlight in unprecedented ways. In this article, which is part opinion piece and part review, we argue that the normal cadence by which we discuss science with our colleagues failed to properly convey likelihoods of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 to the public and the media. As a result, biologically implausible outcomes were given equal weight as the principles set by decades of viral immunology. Unsurprisingly, questionable results and alarmist news media articles have filled the void. We suggest an emphasis on setting expectations based on prior findings while avoiding the overused approach of assuming nothing. After reviewing Ab-mediated immunity after coronavirus and other acute viral infections, we posit that, with few exceptions, the development of protective humoral immunity of more than a year is the norm. Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is likely to follow the same pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Betacoronavirus / genetics
  • Betacoronavirus / immunology*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seroconversion


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral