Kinetics and correlates of the neutralizing antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans

Cell Host Microbe. 2021 Jun 9;29(6):917-929.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2021.04.015. Epub 2021 May 3.


Understanding antibody-based SARS-CoV-2 immunity is critical for overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and informing vaccination strategies. We evaluated SARS-CoV-2 antibody dynamics over 10 months in 963 individuals who predominantly experienced mild COVID-19. Investigating 2,146 samples, we initially detected SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in 94.4% of individuals, with 82% and 79% exhibiting serum and IgG neutralization, respectively. Approximately 3% of individuals demonstrated exceptional SARS-CoV-2 neutralization, with these "elite neutralizers" also possessing SARS-CoV-1 cross-neutralizing IgG. Multivariate statistical modeling revealed age, symptomatic infection, disease severity, and gender as key factors predicting SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing activity. A loss of reactivity to the virus spike protein was observed in 13% of individuals 10 months after infection. Neutralizing activity had half-lives of 14.7 weeks in serum versus 31.4 weeks in purified IgG, indicating a rather long-term IgG antibody response. Our results demonstrate a broad spectrum in the initial SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibody response, with sustained antibodies in most individuals for 10 months after mild COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; IgG; SARS-CoV-2 infection; antibody kinetics; antibody response; correlates of neutralization; longitudinal cohort; neutralizing antibodies; serum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G