Serum-IgG responses to SARS-CoV-2 after mild and severe COVID-19 infection and analysis of IgG non-responders


Background: To accurately interpret COVID-19 seroprevalence surveys, knowledge of serum-IgG responses to SARS-CoV-2 with a better understanding of patients who do not seroconvert, is imperative. This study aimed to describe serum-IgG responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a cohort of patients with both severe and mild COVID-19, including extended studies of patients who remained seronegative more than 90 days post symptom onset. Results: Forty-seven patients (mean age 49 years, 38% female) were included. All (15/15) patients with severe symptoms and 29/32 (90.6%) patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 developed SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies in serum. Time to seroconversion was significantly shorter (median 11 vs. 22 days, P=0.04) in patients with severe compared to mild symptoms. Of the three patients without detectable IgG-responses after >90 days, all had detectable virus-neutralizing antibodies and in two, spike-protein receptor binding domain-specific IgG was detected with an in-house assay. Antibody titers were preserved during follow-up and all patients who seroconverted, irrespective of the severity of symptoms, still had detectable IgG levels >75 days post symptom onset. Conclusions: Patients with severe COVID-19 both seroconvert earlier and develop higher concentrations of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG than patients with mild symptoms. Of those patients who not develop detectable IgG antibodies, all have detectable virus-neutralizing antibodies, suggesting immunity. Our results showing that not all COVID-19 patients develop detectable IgG using two validated commercial clinical methods, even over time, are vital for the interpretation of COVID-19 seroprevalence surveys and for estimating the true infection prevalence in populations.