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What level of neutralising antibody protects from COVID-19? .

By David S. Khoury, Deborah Cromer, Arnold Reynaldi, Timothy E Schlub, Adam K Wheatley, Jennifer A Juno, Kanta Subbarao, Stephen J Kent, James A Triccas, Miles P Davenport

Posted 11 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.09.21252641

Both previous infection and vaccination have been shown to provide potent protection from COVID-19. However, there are concerns that waning immunity and viral variation may lead to a loss of protection over time. Predictive models of immune protection are urgently needed to identify immune correlates of protection to assist in the future deployment of vaccines. To address this, we modelled the relationship between in vitro neutralisation levels and observed protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection using data from seven current vaccines as well as convalescent cohorts. Here we show that neutralisation level is highly predictive of immune protection. The 50% protective neutralisation level was estimated to be approximately 20% of the average convalescent level (95% CI = 14-28%). The estimated neutralisation level required for 50% protection from severe infection was significantly lower (3% of the mean convalescent level (CI = 0.7-13%, p = 0.0004). Given the relationship between in vitro neutralization titer and protection, we then used this to investigate how waning immunity and antigenic variation might affect vaccine efficacy. We found that the decay of neutralising titre in vaccinated subjects over the first 3-4 months after vaccination was at least as rapid as the decay observed in convalescent subjects. Modelling the decay of neutralisation titre over the first 250 days after immunisation predicts a significant loss in protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection will occur, although protection from severe disease should be largely retained. Neutralisation titres against some SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern are reduced compared to the vaccine strain and our model predicts the relationship between neutralisation and efficacy against viral variants. Our analyses provide an evidence-based prediction of SARS-CoV-2 immune protection that will assist in developing vaccine strategies to control the future trajectory of the pandemic.

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