Antibody testing for COVID-19: A report from the National COVID Scientific Advisory Panel

National COVID Testing Scientific Advisory Panel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic caused >1 million infections during January-March 2020. There is an urgent need for reliable antibody detection approaches to support diagnosis, vaccine development, safe release of individuals from quarantine, and population lock-down exit strategies. We set out to evaluate the performance of ELISA and lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) devices. Methods: We tested plasma for COVID (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; SARS-CoV-2) IgM and IgG antibodies by ELISA and using nine different LFIA devices. We used a panel of plasma samples from individuals who have had confirmed COVID infection based on a PCR result (n=40), and pre-pandemic negative control samples banked in the UK prior to December-2019 (n=142). Results: ELISA detected IgM or IgG in 34/40 individuals with a confirmed history of COVID infection (sensitivity 85%, 95%CI 70-94%), vs. 0/50 pre-pandemic controls (specificity 100% [95%CI 93-100%]). IgG levels were detected in 31/31 COVID-positive individuals tested ≥10 days after symptom onset (sensitivity 100%, 95%CI 89-100%). IgG titres rose during the 3 weeks post symptom onset and began to fall by 8 weeks, but remained above the detection threshold. Point estimates for the sensitivity of LFIA devices ranged from 55-70% versus RT-PCR and 65-85% versus ELISA, with specificity 95-100% and 93-100% respectively. Within the limits of the study size, the performance of most LFIA devices was similar. Conclusions: Currently available commercial LFIA devices do not perform sufficiently well for individual patient applications. However, ELISA can be calibrated to be specific for detecting and quantifying SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG and is highly sensitive for IgG from 10 days following first symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139
JournalWellcome Open Research
Volume5
Early online date11 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • serology
  • IgG
  • IgM
  • antibodies
  • immunoassay
  • ELISA
  • lateral flow
  • exposure
  • epidemiology

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