Understanding the dynamics of IgM & IgG antibodies in COVID-19-positive patients

Indian J Med Res. 2022 Sep 20. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_675_21. Online ahead of print.


Background & objectives: The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 has been a threat to humankind due to the rapid spread of infection and appearance of multiple new variants. In the present study, we report the dynamics and persistence of immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies in asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients by chemiluminescent assay.

Methods: A total of 463 serum samples from 218 SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive patients were collected over a period of 124 days post-onset of disease (POD). Antibody levels were measured by chemiluminescence bioanalyzer. Neutralizing antibody titres were assessed by plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT) for SARS-CoV-2.

Results: Both IgM and IgG started appearing from day five post-infection in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. IgM antibody response peaked around day 35 POD and rapidly diminished thereafter, with the last IgM-positive sample observed at 90 days POD. IgG antibody response peaked around 45 days POD and persisted till 124 days. The chemiluminescence immunoassay (CLIA) results showed a moderate correlation (R=0.5846, P<0.001) compared with PRNT. Additional analysis indicated a neutralizing titre of 250 corresponded to 12.948 AU/ml of YHLO iFlash SARS-CoV-2 IgG units.

Interpretation & conclusions: Both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients seem to initiate production of antibody responses from day five of onset of disease. Although the CLIA gives high sensitivity and specificity and also its binding IgG antibody titres may correlate moderately with protective immunity, our results indicate that the values of binding antibody alone may not be a perfect guide to represent virus neutralization titre during donor selection for plasma therapy. However, IgM and IgG antibody detection may help in monitoring the status of disease progression and burden in the community.

Keywords: Antibody response - chemiluminescence assay - neutralizing antibody - SARS-CoV-2 - quantitative detection - YHLO.