Am J Transplant. 2020 Aug 10. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16251. Online ahead of print.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread widely, causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and significant mortality. However, data on viral loads and antibody kinetics in immunocompromised populations are lacking. We aimed to determine nasopharyngeal and plasma viral loads via RT-PCR and SARS-CoV-2 serology via ELISA and study their association with severe forms of COVID-19 and death in kidney transplant recipients. In this study we examined hospitalized kidney transplant recipients with non-severe (n = 21) and severe (n =19) COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal and plasma viral load and serological response were evaluated based on outcomes and disease severity. Ten recipients (25%) displayed persistent viral shedding 30 days after symptom onset. The SARS-CoV-2 viral load of the upper respiratory tract was not associated with severe COVID-19, whereas the plasma viral load was associated with COVID-19 severity (p=0.010) and mortality (p=0.010). All patients harbored antibodies the second week after symptom onset that persisted for two months. We conclude that plasma viral load is associated with COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, whereas nasopharyngeal viral load is not. SARS-CoV-2 shedding is prolonged in kidney transplant recipients and the humoral response to SARS-CoV-2 does not show significant impairment in this series of transplant recipients.