Shedding of infectious SARS-CoV-2 by hospitalized COVID-19 patients in relation to serum antibody responses

Link to article at PubMed

BMC Infect Dis. 2021 May 27;21(1):494. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-06202-8.


BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a global pandemic. The understanding of the transmission and the duration of viral shedding in SARS-CoV-2 infection is still limited.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the timeframe and potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from hospitalized COVID-19 patients in relation to antibody response.

METHOD: We performed a cross-sectional study of 36 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Karolinska University Hospital. Patients with more than 8 days of symptom duration were sampled from airways, for PCR analysis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and in vitro culture of replicating virus. Serum SARS-CoV-2-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) and neutralizing antibodies titers were assessed by immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and microneutralization assay.

RESULTS: SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in airway samples in 23 patients (symptom duration median 15 days, range 9-53 days), whereas 13 patients were SARS-CoV-2 RNA negative (symptom duration median 21 days, range 10-37 days). Replicating virus was detected in samples from 4 patients at 9-16 days. All but two patients had detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG in serum, and SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies were detected in 33 out of 36 patients. Total SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG titers and neutralizing antibody titers were positively correlated. High levels of both total IgG and neutralizing antibody titers were observed in patients sampled later after symptom onset and in patients where replicating virus could not be detected.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that the presence of SARS-Cov-2 specific antibodies in serum may indicate a lower risk of shedding infectious SARS-CoV-2 by hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

PMID:34044758 | PMC:PMC8159068 | DOI:10.1186/s12879-021-06202-8

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