The production of antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 and its clinical implication
Hu, Qianfang et al.
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Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2(SARS-CoV-2), a novel betacoronavirus, has caused an outburst of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. We report the production of specific IgM and IgG antibodies after the infection of SARS-CoV-2 and its implication for the diagnosis, pathology and the course of the disease as well as the recurrence of positive nucleic acid tests after discharge. Methods: Test results for SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG antibodies of 221 confirmed COVID-19 patients were retrospectively examined, and their clinical data were collected and analyzed based on various subgroups. SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG antibodies were determined with the chemiluminescence method. Findings: The concentration (S/CO) of SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG antibodies peaked on day 19-21 after symptom onset, with a median of 17.38 (IQR 4.39-36.4) for IgM and 5.59 (IQR 0.73-13.65) for IgG. Detection rates reached highest on day 16-18 and day 19-21 for IgM and IgG, which were 73.6% and 98.6%, respectively, with significantly higher concentration of IgG in critically ill patients than in those with mild to moderate disease (P=0.027). The concentration of the antibodies on day 16-21 is not correlated with the course or outcome of the disease (Spearman r < 0.20, P > 0.05). Nasopharyngeal swabs revealed positive SARS-CoV-2 RNA in up to 52.7% of recovered patients after discharge, whose IgG proved to be significantly lower than that of those with negative RNA results (P = 0.009). IgG and IgM were tested twice within 14 days after discharge with a 7-day interval, and the second testing of these antibodies displayed a decrease in concentration of 21.2% (IQR, 11.2%，34.48%) for IgG and 23.05% (IQR, -27.96%，46.13%) for IgM, without statistical significance between the patients with re-detectable positive RNA results and those with negative RNA results after discharge. However, those with positive results experienced a count decrease in lymphocyte subsets. Interpretation: The concentration of SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG antibodies peaked on day 19-21 after symptom onset, and antibody testing on day 16-21 is associated with increased detection rates, but the antibody concentration does not affect the course and outcome of the infection. Recovering patients with re-detectable positive SARS-CoV-2 RNA displayed lower concentration of IgG, but the downward trend of IgG during recovery indicated its limited duration of protection, and the protective effect of IgG remains to be investigated.