Longitudinal analysis of humoral immunity against SARS-CoV-2 Spike in convalescent individuals up to 8 months post-symptom onset

bioRxiv. 2021 Jan 25;2021.01.25.428097. doi: 10.1101/2021.01.25.428097. Preprint


Functional and lasting immune responses to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) are currently under intense investigation as antibody titers in plasma have been shown to decline during convalescence. Since the absence of antibodies does not equate to absence of immune memory, we sought to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2-specific memory B cells in COVID-19 convalescent patients. In this study, we report on the evolution of the overall humoral immune responses on 101 blood samples obtained from 32 COVID-19 convalescent patients between 16 and 233 days post-symptom onset. Our observations indicate that anti-Spike and anti-RBD IgM in plasma decay rapidly, whereas the reduction of IgG is less prominent. Neutralizing activity in convalescent plasma declines rapidly compared to Fc-effector functions. Concomitantly, the frequencies of RBD-specific IgM+ B cells wane significantly when compared to RBD-specific IgG+ B cells, which increase over time, and the number of IgG+ memory B cells which remain stable thereafter for up to 8 months after symptoms onset. With the recent approval of highly effective vaccines for COVID-19, data on the persistence of immune responses are of central importance. Even though overall circulating SARS-CoV-2 Spike-specific antibodies contract over time during convalescence, we demonstrate that RBD-specific B cells increase and persist up to 8 months post symptom onset. We also observe modest increases in RBD-specific IgG+ memory B cells and importantly, detectable IgG and sustained Fc-effector activity in plasma over the 8-month period. Our results add to the current understanding of immune memory following SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is critical for the prevention of secondary infections, vaccine efficacy and herd immunity against COVID-19.

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