Clinical utility of Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S assay in COVID-19 vaccination: An exploratory analysis of the mRNA-1273 phase 1 trial

medRxiv. 2021 Oct 19;2021.10.04.21264521. doi: 10.1101/2021.10.04.21264521. Preprint


Background: The ability to quantify an immune response after vaccination against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is essential. This study assessed the clinical utility of the quantitative Roche Elecsys® Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S assay (ACOV2S) using samples from the 2019-nCoV vaccine (mRNA-1273) phase 1 trial (NCT04283461).

Methods: Samples from 30 healthy participants, aged 18-55 years, who received two injections with mRNA-1273 at a dose of 25 μg (n=15) or 100 μg (n=15), were collected at Days 1 (first vaccination), 15, 29 (second vaccination), 43 and 57. ACOV2S results (shown in U/mL - equivalent to BAU/mL per the first WHO international standard) were compared with results from ELISAs specific to antibodies against the Spike protein (S-2P) and the receptor binding domain (RBD) as well as neutralization tests including nanoluciferase (nLUC80), live-virus (PRNT80), and a pseudovirus neutralizing antibody assay (PsVNA50).

Results: RBD-specific antibodies were already detectable by ACOV2S at the first time point of assessment (d15 after first vaccination), with seroconversion before in all but 2 participants (25 μg dose group); all had seroconverted by Day 29. Across all post-baseline visits, geometric mean concentration of antibody levels were 3.27-7.48-fold higher in the 100 μg compared with the 25 μg dose group. ACOV2S measurements were highly correlated with those from RBD ELISA (Pearson's r=0.938; p<0.0001) and S-2P ELISA (r=0.918; p<0.0001). For both ELISAs, heterogeneous baseline results and smaller increases in antibody levels following the second vs first vaccination compared with ACOV2S were observed. ACOV2S showed absence of any baseline noise indicating high specificity detecting vaccine-induced antibody response. Moderate-strong correlations were observed between ACOV2S and neutralization tests (nLUC80 r=0.933; PsVNA50, r=0.771; PRNT80, r=0.672; all p≤0.0001).

Conclusion: The Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 S assay (ACOV2S) can be regarded as a highly valuable method to assess and quantify the presence of RBD-directed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 following vaccination, and may indicate the presence of neutralizing antibodies. As a fully automated and standardized method, ACOV2S could qualify as the method of choice for consistent quantification of vaccine-induced humoral response.

Keywords: COVID-19; ELISA; SARS-CoV-2; neutralization assay; quantitative serology; vaccination.

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