Humoral Response Dynamics Following Infection with SARS-CoV-2


Introduction: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) specific antibodies have been shown to neutralize the virus in-vitro. Understanding antibody dynamics following SARS-CoV-2 infection is therefore crucial. Sensitive measurement of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is also vital for large seroprevalence surveys which inform government policies and public health interventions. However, rapidly waning antibodies following SARS-CoV-2 infection could jeopardize the sensitivity of serological testing on which these surveys depend. Methods: This prospective cohort study of SARS-CoV-2 humoral dynamics in a central London hospital analyzed 137 serial samples collected from 67 participants seropositive to SARS-CoV-2 by the Meso-Scale Discovery assay. Antibody titers were quantified to the SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein (N), spike (S-)protein and the receptor-binding-domain (RBD) of the S-protein. Titers were log-transformed and a multivariate log-linear model with time-since-infection and clinical variables was fitted by Bayesian methods. Results: The mean estimated half-life of the N-antibody was 52 days (95% CI 42-65). The S- and RBD-antibody had significantly longer mean half-lives of 81 days (95% CI 61-111) and 83 days (95% CI 55-137) respectively. An ACE-2-receptor competition assay demonstrated significant correlation between the S and RBD-antibody titers and ACE2-receptor blocking in-vitro. The time-to-a-negative N-antibody test for 50% of the seropositive population was predicted to be 195 days (95% CI 163-236). Discussion: After SARS-CoV-2 infection, the predicted half-life of N-antibody was 52 days with 50% of seropositive participants becoming seronegative to this antibody at 195 days. Widely used serological tests that depend on the N-antibody will therefore significantly underestimate the prevalence of infection following the majority of infections.