SARS-CoV-2 Serum Neutralization Assay: A Traditional Tool for a Brand-New Virus

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SARS-CoV-2 serum neutralization assay represents the gold standard for assessing antibody-mediated protection in naturally infected and vaccinated individuals. In the present study, 662 serum samples collected from February 2020 to January 2021 from acute and convalescent COVID-19 patients were tested to determine neutralizing antibody (NAb) titers using a microneutralization test (MNT) for live SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG, IgA, and IgM directed against different viral antigens were measured by high-throughput automated platforms. We observed higher levels of NAbs in elderly (>60 years old) individuals and in patients presenting acute respiratory distress syndrome. SARS-CoV-2 NAbs develop as soon as five days from symptom onset and, despite a decline after the second month, persist for over 11 months, showing variable dynamics. Through correlation and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, we set up a testing algorithm, suitable for the laboratory workload, by establishing an optimal cutoff value of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG for convalescent plasma donors to exclude from MNT samples foreseen to have low/negative NAb titers and ineligible for plasma donation. Overall, MNT, although cumbersome and not suitable for routine testing of large sample sizes, remains the reference tool for the assessment of antibody-mediated immunity after SARS-CoV-2 infection. Smart testing algorithms may optimize the laboratory workflow to monitor antibody-mediated protection in COVID-19 patients, plasma donors, and vaccinated individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number655
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 10 2021


  • neutralizing antibodies
  • protective immunity
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • serology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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