Convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of patients with COVID-19: Assessment of methods available for antibody detection and their correlation with neutralising antibody levels
Harvala H., Robb M., Watkins N., Ijaz S., Dicks S., Patel M., Supasa P., Dejnirattisai W., Liu C., Mongkolsapaya J., Brown A., Bailey D., Vipond R., Grayson N., Temperton N., Bolton J., Fyfe A., Gopal R., Simmonds P., Screaton G., Thompson C., Brooks T., Zambon M., Miflin G., Roberts D.
Introduction: The lack of approved specific therapeutic agents to treat COVID-19 associated with SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has led to the rapid implementation and/or randomised controlled trials of convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) in many countries including the UK. Effective CPT is likely to require high titres of neutralising antibody levels in convalescent donations. Understanding the relationship between functional neutralising antibodies and antibody levels to specific SARS-CoV-2 proteins in scalable assays will be crucial for the success of large-scale collection and use of convalescent plasma. We assessed whether neutralising antibody titres correlated with reactivity in a range of ELISA assays targeting the spike (S) protein, the main target for human immune response. Methods. Blood samples were collected from 52 individuals with a previous laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection at least 28 days after symptom resolution. These were assayed for SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies by microneutralisation and pseudotype assays, and for antibodies by four different ELISAs. ROC analysis was used to further identify sensitivity and specificity of selected assays to identify samples containing high neutralising antibody levels suitable for clinical use of convalescent plasma. Results. All samples contained SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, whereas neutralising antibody titres of greater than 1:20 were detected in 43 samples (83% of those tested) and >1:100 in 22 samples (42%). The best correlations were observed with EUROimmun IgG ELISA S/CO reactivity (Spearman Rho correlation co-efficient 0.88; p<0.001). Based on ROC analysis, EUROimmun would detect 60% of samples with titres of >1:100 with 100% specificity using a reactivity index of 9.1 (13/22). Discussion. Robust associations between virus neutralising antibody titres and reactivity in several ELISA-based antibody tests demonstrate their possible utility for scaled-up production of convalescent plasma containing potentially therapeutic levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies.