Evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 neutralization assays for antibody monitoring in natural infection and vaccine trials
Anton M. Sholukh,
Emily S. Ford,
Longping Victor Tse,
Florian A Lempp,
Russell Saint Germain,
Jia Jin Kee,
Andrew B Stuart,
Peter B Rupert,
Margaret K. Doll,
April Kaur Randhawa,
Roland K Strong,
Keith R Jerome,
Ralph S Baric,
Posted 08 Dec 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.07.20245431
Posted 08 Dec 2020
Determinants of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection require the development of well-standardized, reproducible antibody assays to be utilized in concert with clinical trials to establish correlates of risk and protection. This need has led to the appearance of a variety of neutralization assays used by different laboratories and companies. Using plasma samples from COVID-19 convalescent individuals with mild-to-moderate disease from a localized outbreak in a single region of the western US, we compared three platforms for SARS-CoV-2 neutralization: assay with live SARS-CoV-2, pseudovirus assay utilizing lentiviral (LV) and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) packaging, and a surrogate ELISA test. Vero, Vero E6, HEK293T cells expressing human angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (hACE2), and TZM-bl cells expressing hACE2 and transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) were evaluated. Live-virus and LV-pseudovirus assay with HEK293T cells showed similar geometric mean titers (GMTs) ranging 141-178, but VSV-pseudovirus assay yielded significantly higher GMT (310 95%CI 211-454; p < 0.001). Fifty percent neutralizing dilution (ND50) titers from live-virus and all pseudovirus assay readouts were highly correlated (Pearson r = 0.81-0.89). ND50 titers positively correlated with plasma concentration of IgG against SARS-CoV-2 spike and receptor binding domain (RBD) (r = 0.63-0.89), but moderately correlated with nucleoprotein IgG (r = 0.46-0.73). There was a moderate positive correlation between age and spike (Spearman's rho=0.37, p=0.02), RBD (rho=0.39, p=0.013) and nucleoprotein IgG (rho=0.45, p=0.003). ND80 showed stronger correlation with age than ND50 (ND80 rho=0.51 (p=0.001), ND50 rho=0.28 (p=0.075)). Our data demonstrate high concordance between cell-based assays with live and pseudotyped virions.
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