Microbiology Spectrum | 2021

A Serological Snapshot of COVID-19 Initial Stages in Israel by a 6-Plex Antigen Array

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Abstract


A 6-plex protein array presenting the whole inactivated virus and five nucleocapsid and spike-derived SARS-CoV-2 antigens was used to generate a serological snapshot of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and seroconversion in Israel in the early months of the pandemic. Our findings confirm a very low seroprevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the Israeli adult population. ABSTRACT The first case of SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in Israel in late February 2020. Three major outbreaks followed, resulting in over 800,000 cases and over 6,000 deaths by April 2021. Our aim was characterization of a serological snapshot of Israeli patients and healthy adults in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sera from 55 symptomatic COVID-19 patients and 146 healthy subjects (early-pandemic, reverse transcription-quantitative PCR [qRT-PCR]-negative), collected in Israel between March and April 2020, were screened for SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG, IgM, and IgA antibodies, using a 6-plex antigen microarray presenting the whole inactivated virus and five viral antigens: a stabilized version of the spike ectodomain (S2P), spike subunit 1 (S1), receptor-binding-domain (RBD), N-terminal-domain (NTD), and nucleocapsid (NC). COVID-19 patients, 4 to 40\u2009days post symptom onset, presented specific IgG to all of the viral antigens (6/6) in 54 of the 55 samples (98% sensitivity). Specific IgM and IgA antibodies for all six antigens were detected in only 10% (5/55) and 4% (2/55) of the patients, respectively, suggesting that specific IgG is a superior serological marker for COVID-19. None of the qRT-PCR-negative sera reacted with all six viral antigens (100% specificity), and 48% (70/146) were negative throughout the panel. Our findings confirm a low seroprevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the Israeli adult population prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. We further suggest that the presence of low-level cross-reacting antibodies in naive individuals calls for a combined, multiantigen analysis for accurate discrimination between naive and exposed individuals. IMPORTANCE A 6-plex protein array presenting the whole inactivated virus and five nucleocapsid and spike-derived SARS-CoV-2 antigens was used to generate a serological snapshot of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and seroconversion in Israel in the early months of the pandemic. Our findings confirm a very low seroprevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the Israeli adult population. We further propose that the presence of low-level nonspecific antibodies in naive individuals calls for a combined, multiantigen analysis for accurate discrimination between naive and exposed individuals enabling accurate determination of seroconversion. The developed assay is currently applied to evaluate immune responses to the Israeli vaccine during human phase I/II trials.

Volume 9
Pages None
DOI 10.1128/Spectrum.00870-21
Language English
Journal Microbiology Spectrum

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