Evaluation of high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 serological assays in a longitudinal cohort of patients with mild COVID-19: clinical sensitivity, specificity and association with virus neutralization test
BACKGROUND: The association between SARS-CoV-2 commercial serological assays and virus neutralization test (VNT) has been poorly explored in mild patients with COVID-19. METHODS: 439 serum specimens were longitudinally collected from 76 healthcare workers with RT-PCR-confirmed COVID-19. The clinical sensitivity (determined weekly) of nine commercial serological assays were evaluated. Clinical specificity was assessed using 69 pre-pandemic sera. Correlation, agreement and concordance with the VNT were also assessed on a subset of 170 samples. Area under the ROC curve (AUC) was estimated at 2 neutralizing antibody titers. RESULTS: The Wantai Total Ab assay targeting the receptor binding domain (RBD) within the S protein presented the best sensitivity at different times during the course of disease. The clinical specificity was greater than 95% for all tests except for the Euroimmun IgA assay. The overall agreement with the presence of neutralizing antibodies ranged from 62.2% (95%CI; 56.0-68.1) for bioMérieux IgM to 91.2% (87.0-94.2) for Siemens. The lowest negative percent agreement (NPA) was found with the Wantai Total Ab assay (NPA 33% (21.1-48.3)). The NPA for other total Ab or IgG assays targeting the S or the RBD was 80.7% (66.7-89.7), 90.3 (78.1-96.1) and 96.8% (86.8-99.3) for Siemens, bioMérieux IgG and DiaSorin, respectively. None of commercial assays have sufficient performance to detect a neutralizing titer of 80 (AUC<0.76). CONCLUSIONS: Although some assays show a better agreement with VNT than others, the present findings emphasize that commercialized serological tests including those targeting the RBD cannot substitute a VNT for the assessment of functional antibody response.