Antibody persistence and neutralising activity in primary school students and staff: prospective active surveillance, June to December 2020, England
Anna J Jeffery-Smith,
Maria J Zambon,
Ross J Harris,
Ifeanyichukwu O Okike,
Andrew J Brent,
Samuel E Jones,
Kevin E Brown,
Mary E Ramsay,
Posted 15 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.14.21260502
Posted 15 Jul 2021
Introduction SARS-CoV-2 serological studies have so far focused mainly on adults. Public Health England initiated prospective, longitudinal SARS-CoV-2 sero-surveillance in schools across England after the first national lockdown, which allowed comparison of child and adult responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection over time. Methods Staff and students had venepuncture for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in school during June, July and December 2020. Blood samples were tested for nucleocapsid (Abbott) and receptor binding domain (RBD) antibodies (in-house assay), and student samples were additionally assessed for live virus neutralising activity. Results In June 2020, 1,344 staff and 835 students were tested. Overall, 11.5% (95% CI: 9.4-13.9) and 11.3% (95% CI: 9.2-13.6; p=0.88) of students had nucleoprotein and RBD antibodies, compared to 15.6% (95% CI: 13.7-17.6) and 15.3% (95% CI: 13.4-17.3; p=0.83) of staff. Live virus neutralising activity was detected in 79.8% (n=71/89) of nucleocapsid and 85.5% (71/83) of RBD antibody positive children. RBD antibodies correlated more strongly with neutralising antibodies (rs=0.7527; p<0.0001) than nucleocapsid antibodies (rs=0.3698; p<0.0001). A median of 24.4 weeks later, 58.2% (107/184) participants had nucleocapsid antibody seroreversion, compared to 20.9% (33/158) for RBD (p<0.001). Similar seroreversion rates were observed between staff and students for nucleocapsid (p=0.26) and RBD-antibodies (p=0.43). Nucleocapsid and RBD antibody quantitative results were significantly lower in staff compared to students (p=0.028 and <0.0001 respectively) at baseline, but not at 24 weeks (p=0.16 and p=0.37, respectively). Conclusion RBD antibodies correlated more strongly with live virus neutralising activity. Most seropositive students and staff retained RBD antibodies for >6 months after SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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