Rapid and specific antibody testing is crucial for improved understanding, control, and treatment of COVID-19 pathogenesis. Herein, we describe and apply a rapid, sensitive, and accurate virus neutralization assay for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The assay is based on an HIV-1 lentiviral vector that contains a secreted intron Gaussia luciferase (Gluc) or secreted nano-luciferase reporter cassette, pseudotyped with the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein, and is validated with a plaque-reduction assay using an authentic, infectious SARS-CoV-2 strain. The assay was used to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in serum from individuals with a broad range of COVID-19 symptoms; patients included those in the intensive care unit (ICU), health care workers (HCWs), and convalescent plasma donors. The highest neutralizing antibody titers were observed among ICU patients, followed by general hospitalized patients, HCWs, and convalescent plasma donors. Our study highlights a wide phenotypic variation in human antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrates the efficacy of a potentially novel lentivirus pseudotype assay for high-throughput serological surveys of neutralizing antibody titers in large cohorts.
Cong Zeng, John P. Evans, Rebecca Pearson, Panke Qu, Yi-Min Zheng, Richard T. Robinson, Luanne Hall-Stoodley, Jacob Yount, Sonal Pannu, Rama K. Mallampalli, Linda Saif, Eugene Oltz, Gerard Lozanski, Shan-Lu Liu