Persistence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in relation to symptoms in a nationwide prospective study

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Feb 24;ciab172. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab172. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Assessing the duration of immunity following infection with SARS-CoV-2 is a first priority to gauge the degree of protection following infection. Such knowledge is lacking especially in the general population. Here, we studied changes in Immunoglobulin (Ig) isotype seropositivity and IgG binding strength of SARS-CoV-2-specific serum antibodies up to 7 months following onset of symptoms in a nationwide sample.

Methods: Participants from a prospective representative serological study in the Netherlands were included based on IgG seroconversion to the Spike S1 protein of SARS-CoV-2 (N=353), with up to three consecutive serum samples per seroconverted participant (N=738). IgM, IgA and IgG antibody concentrations to S1, and increase in IgG avidity in relation to time since onset of disease symptoms, were determined.

Results: While SARS-CoV-2-specific IgM and IgA antibodies declined rapidly after the first month post onset of disease, specific IgG was still present in 92% (95% confidence interval, CI, 89-95) of the participants after 7 months. The estimated 2-fold decrease of IgG antibodies was 158 days (95% CI 136-189). Concentrations sustained better in persons reporting significant symptoms compared to asymptomatic persons or those with mild upper respiratory complaints only. Similarly, avidity of IgG antibodies for symptomatic persons showed a steeper increase over time compared with persons with mild or no symptoms (p=0.022).

Conclusion: SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies persist and show increasing avidity over time, indicative of underlying immune maturation. These data support development of immune memory against SARS-CoV-2 providing insight into protection of the general unvaccinated part of the population.

Keywords: COVID-19; Immunoglobulin G; avidity/maturation; decay; symptoms.