COVID-19 survival associates with the immunoglobulin response to the SARS-cov-2 spike receptor binding domain

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BACKGROUND. Serological assays are of critical importance to investigate correlates of response and protection in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to define previous exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in populations, and to verify the development of an adaptive immune response in infected individuals. METHODS. We studied 509 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 from the San Raffaele Hospital of Milan and 480 samples of prepandemic organ donor sera collected in 2010–2012. Using fluid-phase luciferase immune precipitation (LIPS) assays, we characterized IgG, IgM, and IgA antibodies to the spike receptor binding domain (RBD), S1+S2, nucleocapsid, and ORF6 to ORF10 of SARS-CoV-2, to the HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 betacoronaviruses spike S2, and the H1N1Ca2009 flu virus hemagglutinin. Sequential samples at 1 and 3 months after hospital discharge were also tested for SARS-CoV-2 RBD antibodies in 95 patients. RESULTS. Antibodies developed rapidly against multiple SARS-CoV-2 antigens in 95% of patients by 4 weeks after symptom onset and IgG to the RBD increased until the third month of follow-up. We observed a major synchronous expansion of antibodies to the HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 spike S2. A likely coinfection with influenza was neither linked to a more severe presentation of the disease nor to a worse outcome. Of the measured antibody responses, positivity for IgG against the SARS-CoV-2 spike RBD was predictive of survival. CONCLUSION. The measurement of antibodies to selected epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 antigens can offer a more accurate assessment of the humoral response in patients and its impact on survival. The presence of partially cross-reactive antibodies with other betacoronaviruses is likely to impact on serological assay specificity and interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6366-6378
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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