20 Apr 2021
SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected in late 2019 and circulated globally, causing COVID-19, which is characterised by sub-clinical to severe disease in humans. Here, we investigate the serological antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection during acute and convalescent infection using a cohort of (i) COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital, (ii) healthy individuals who had experienced 'COVID-19 like-illness', and (iii) a cohort of healthy individuals prior to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. We compare SARS-CoV-2 specific antibody detection rates from four different serological methods, virus neutralisation test (VNT), ID Screen
SARS-CoV-2-N IgG ELISA, Whole Antigen ELISA, and lentivirus-based SARS-CoV-2 pseudotype virus neutralisation tests (pVNT). All methods were able to detect prior infection with COVID-19, albeit with different relative sensitivities. The VNT and SARS-CoV-2-N ELISA methods showed a strong correlation yet provided increased detection rates when used in combination. A pVNT correlated strongly with SARS-CoV-2 VNT and was able to effectively discriminate SARS-CoV-2 antibody positive and negative serum with the same efficiency as the VNT. Moreover, the pVNT was performed with the same level of discrimination across multiple separate institutions. Therefore, the pVNT is a sensitive, specific, and reproducible lower biosafety level alternative to VNT for detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies for diagnostic and research applications. Our data illustrate the potential utility of applying VNT or pVNT and ELISA antibody tests in parallel to enhance the sensitivity of exposure to infection.