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A comparative study of antibody response, virus neutralization efficiency & metabolites in SARS-CoV-2-infected adults & children.

BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE: COVID-19 has been a global pandemic since early 2020. It has diverse clinical manifestations, but consistent immunological and metabolic correlates of disease severity and protection are not clear. This study was undertaken to compare seropositivity rate, antibody levels against nucleocapsid and spike proteins, virus neutralization and metabolites between adult and child COVID-19 patients.

METHODS: Plasma samples from naïve control (n=14) and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR positive COVID-19 participants (n=132) were tested for reactivity with nucleocapsid and spike proteins by ELISA, neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in Vero cells and metabolites by 1 H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

RESULTS: An ELISA platform was developed using nucleocapsid and spike proteins for COVID-19 serosurvey. The participants showed greater seropositivity for nucleocapsid (72%) than spike (55.3%), and males showed higher seropositivity than females for both the proteins. Antibody levels to both the proteins were higher in intensive care unit (ICU) than ward patients. Children showed lower seropositivity and antibody levels than adults. In contrast to ICU adults (81.3%), ICU children (33.3%) showed lower seropositivity for spike. Notably, the neutralization efficiency correlated with levels of anti-nucleocapsid antibodies. The levels of plasma metabolites were perturbed differentially in COVID-19 patients as compared with the naive controls.

INTERPRETATION & CONCLUSIONS: Our results reflect the complexity of human immune response and metabolome to SARS-CoV-2 infection. While innate and cellular immune responses are likely to be a major determinant of disease severity and protection, antibodies to multiple viral proteins likely affect COVID-19 pathogenesis. In children, not adults, lower seropositivity rate for spike was associated with disease severity.

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