BACKGROUND: Throughout the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic numerous severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibody assays have been approved through Emergency Use Authorization and require further evaluation of sensitivity and specificity in clinical laboratory settings prior to implementation.
METHODS: We included 1733 samples from 375 PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2-positive individuals of the North Zealand Covid-19 Cohort in an 8-month period. We investigated diagnostic sensitivity and specificity against consensus and PCR and interassay agreement over time for 5 SARS-CoV-2 immunoassays [Roche-nucleocapsid (NC)-total, Roche-receptor binding domain (RBD)-total, Siemens-RBD-IgG, Siemens-RBD-total, Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS)-RBD-IgG] commercially available on automated platforms and 2 ELISA assays (TFS-RBD-total, Wantai-RBD-total).
RESULTS: Early interassay discrepancy in up to 49% of samples decreased steadily during the first 18 days. By day 18, all assays had reached a plateau between 82.3% and 90.5% seropositivity compared to PCR. Assays ranked by closest agreement with the consensus model beyond day 18 (sensitivity/specificity against consensus) were as follows: Roche-RBD-total, 99.8%/100.0%; Wantai-RBD-total, 99.8%/99.7%; Roche-NC-total, 97.8%/100.0%; Siemens-RBD-total, 98.0%/98.7%; TFS-RBD-total, 96.9%/99.7%; TFS-RBD-IgG, 91.5%/100.0%; and Siemens-RBD-IgG, 94.6%/89.9%. We found that 7.8% of PCR-positive patients remained seronegative in all assays throughout the study.
CONCLUSIONS: All included assays had sensitivities against consensus >90% past day 18. For the current recommended use of antibody assays to detect former, undocumented Covid-19, our data suggest the use of total antibody assays rather than IgG-specific assays due to higher long-term sensitivity. Finally, a nonresponding subpopulation of 7.8% in our cohort with persistent seronegative results raises concern of a possible substantial number of people with continued low protection following natural SARS-CoV-2 infection.