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Neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a COVID-19 recovered patient cohort and their implications

By Fan Wu, Aojie Wang, Mei Liu, Qimin Wang, Jun Chen, Shuai Xia, Yun Ling, Yuling Zhang, Jingna Xun, Lu Lu, Shibo Jiang, Hongzhou Lu, Yumei Wen, Jinghe Huang

Posted 06 Apr 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.30.20047365

BackgroundThe COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus threatens global public health. Currently, neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) versus this virus are expected to correlate with recovery and protection of this disease. However, the characteristics of these antibodies have not been well studied in association with the clinical manifestations in patients. MethodsPlasma collected from 175 COVID-19 recovered patients with mild symptoms were screened using a safe and sensitive pseudotyped-lentiviral-vector-based neutralization assay. Spike-binding antibody in plasma were determined by ELISA using RBD, S1, and S2 proteins of SARS-CoV-2. The levels and the time course of SARS-CoV-2-specific NAbs and the spike-binding antibodies were monitored at the same time. FindingsSARS-CoV-2 NAbs were unable to cross-reactive with SARS-CoV virus. SARS-CoV-2-specific NAbs were detected in patients from day 10-15 after the onset of the disease and remained thereafter. The titers of NAb among these patients correlated with the spike-binding antibodies targeting S1, RBD, and S2 regions. The titers of NAbs were variable in different patients. Elderly and middle-age patients had significantly higher plasma NAb titers (P<0.0001) and spike-binding antibodies (P=0.0003) than young patients. Notably, among these patients, there were ten patients whose NAb titers were under the detectable level of our assay (ID50: < 40); while in contrast, two patients, showed very high titers of NAb, with ID50 :15989 and 21567 respectively. The NAb titers were positive correlated with plasma CRP levels but negative correlated with the lymphocyte counts of patients at the time of admission, indicating an association between humoral response and cellular immune response. InterpretationThe variations of SARS-CoV-2 specific NAbs in recovered COVID-19 patients may raise the concern about the role of NAbs on disease progression. The correlation of NAb titers with age, lymphocyte counts, and blood CRP levels suggested that the interplay between virus and host immune response in coronavirus infections should be further explored for the development of effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, titration of NAb is helpful prior to the use of convalescent plasma for prevention or treatment. FundingMinistry of Science and Technology of China, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences

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