Seasonal human coronavirus antibodies are boosted upon SARS-CoV-2 infection but not associated with protection

medRxiv. 2020 Nov 10;2020.11.06.20227215. doi: 10.1101/2020.11.06.20227215. Preprint


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has rapidly spread within the human population. Although SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus, most humans had been previously exposed to other antigenically distinct common seasonal human coronaviruses (hCoVs) before the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we quantified levels of SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies and hCoV-reactive antibodies in serum samples collected from 204 humans before the COVID-19 pandemic. We then quantified pre-pandemic antibody levels in serum from a separate cohort of 252 individuals who became PCR-confirmed infected with SARS-CoV-2. Finally, we longitudinally measured hCoV and SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the serum of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Our studies indicate that most individuals possessed hCoV-reactive antibodies before the COVID-19 pandemic. We determined that ∼23% of these individuals possessed non-neutralizing antibodies that cross-reacted with SARS-CoV-2 spike and nucleocapsid proteins. These antibodies were not associated with protection against SARS-CoV-2 infections or hospitalizations, but paradoxically these hCoV cross-reactive antibodies were boosted upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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