Introduction Serological testing can augment delayed case identification programmes for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronoravirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Immunoassays employ anti-nucleocapsid (anti-NP; the majority) or potentially neutralising anti-spike (including anti-receptor binding domain; anti-RBD) antibody targets, yet correlation between assays and variability arising from disease symptomatology remains unclear. We explore these possibly differential immune responses across the disease spectrum.
Methods A multicentre prospective study was undertaken via a SARS-CoV-2 delayed case identification programme (08 May-11 July 2020). Matched samples were tested for anti-NP and anti-RBD (utilising an ‘inhouse’ double-antigen bridged assay), reactivity expressed as test/cut-off binding ratios (BR) and results compared. A multivariate linear regression model analysed age, sex, symptomatology, PCR positivity, anti-NP, and anti-RBD BRs. Participants were followed up for possible reinfection.
Results 902 individuals underwent matched testing; 109 were SARS-CoV-2 PCR swab positive. Anti-NP, anti-RBD immunoassay agreement was 87.5% (95% CI 85.3–89.6), with BRs strongly correlated (R=0.75). PCR confirmed cases were more frequently identified by anti-RBD (sensitivity 108/109, 99.1%, 95% CI 95.0–100.0) than anti-NP (102/109, 93.6%, 95% CI 87.2–97.4). Anti-RBD identified an additional 83/325 (25.5%) cases in those seronegative for anti-NP. Presence of anti-NP (p<0.0001), fever (p=0.005), or anosmia (p=0.002) were all significantly associated with an increased anti-RBD BR. Age was associated with reduced anti-RBD BR (p=0.052). Three cases with evidence of seroconversion (anti-RBD seropositive) presented with subsequent reactive PCR results, two of which coincided with first time onset of Public Heath England SARS-CoV-2 symptoms.
Conclusions SARS-CoV-2 anti-RBD shows significant correlation with anti-NP for absolute seroconversion, and BRs. Higher BRs are seen in symptomatic individuals with significantly higher levels seen in those with fever and anosmia. The degree of discordant results (12.5%) limits the use of anti-NP as a stand-alone for delayed case finding programmes. Similarly, this discordance limits the utility of non-neutralising anti-NP assays in place of potentially neutralising anti-RBD to infer possible immunity.
** this abstract presentation was awarded an Honourable Mention
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