Using mixed-effects modeling to estimate decay kinetics of response to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Antib Ther. 2021 Jun 25;4(3):144-148. doi: 10.1093/abt/tbab013. eCollection 2021 Jul.


The duration of natural immunity in response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a matter of some debate in the literature at present. For example, in a recent publication characterizing SARS-CoV-2 immunity over time, the authors fit pooled longitudinal data, using fitted slopes to infer the duration of SARS-CoV-2 immunity. In fact, such approaches can lead to misleading conclusions as a result of statistical model-fitting artifacts. To exemplify this phenomenon, we reanalyzed one of the markers (pseudovirus neutralizing titer) in the publication, using mixed-effects modeling, a methodology better suited to longitudinal datasets like these. Our findings showed that the half-life was both longer and more variable than reported by the authors. The example selected by us here illustrates the utility of mixed-effects modeling in provide more accurate estimates of the duration and heterogeneity of half-lives of molecular and cellular biomarkers of SARS-CoV-2 immunity.

Keywords: COVID-19; durability of immune response; immunology; mixed-effects modeling; population PK/PD.