Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 remain stable and even increase seven months after infection: Study

Covid delta plus variant

According to a recent study, IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein remained stable or even increased seven months after infection in a cohort of healthcare workers.

Additionally, the findings, which were published in the journal ‘Nature Communications,’ supported the notion that pre-existing antibodies against common cold coronaviruses could provide protection against COVID-19.

The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a non-profit organisation supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, coordinated the study in collaboration with the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona.

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To forecast the pandemic’s evolution and devise effective strategies, it is critical to gain a better understanding of the dynamics and duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2, as well as the possible role of pre-existing antibodies against common cold coronaviruses.

With this objective in mind, the team led by ISGlobal researcher Carlota Dobano followed a cohort of healthcare workers at the Hospital Clinic (SEROCOV study) from the outbreak’s start to determine the levels of antibodies against various SARS-CoV-2 antigens over time.

“This is the first study to assess antibodies against such a large panel of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies over a seven-month period,” Dobano explained.

Between March and October 2020, the research team collected blood samples from 578 participants at four different time points. They used Luminex technology to determine the level and type of antibodies to six distinct SARS-CoV-2 antigens, as well as the presence of antibodies against four coronaviruses that cause common colds in humans.

Additionally, they conducted an analysis of antibodies’ neutralising activity in collaboration with researchers at the University of Barcelona. The study was funded by EIT Health, a European innovation network.

The findings indicated that the majority of healthcare worker infections occurred during the first pandemic wave (the percentage of participants with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies increased only slightly between March and October — from 13.5 per cent to 16.4 per cent).

With the exception of IgM and IgG antibodies directed against the nucleocapsid (N), the rest of the IgG antibodies (including those with neutralising activity) remained stable over time, corroborated by other recent studies.

“Rather unexpectedly, we observed an increase in IgG anti-Spike antibodies in 75% of participants after month five, despite the absence of evidence of virus re-exposure,” said Gemma Moncunill, senior co-author of the study. There were no reinfections observed in the cohort.

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The results indicate that antibodies against human cold coronaviruses (HCoV) may confer cross-protection against COVID-19 infection or disease.

Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 had significantly lower levels of HCoV antibodies. Additionally, individuals who were asymptomatic had higher levels of anti-HCoV IgG and IgA than those who had symptomatic infections.

“While cross-protection by pre-existing immunity to common cold coronaviruses has not been confirmed, it may help explain the large disparities in disease susceptibility within the population,” Dobano concluded.

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