Viral dynamics and antibody responses

Over 40% of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) COVID-19 patients were asymptomatically infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the immune responses of these asymptomatic individuals is a critical factor for developing the strategy to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we determined the viral dynamics and antibody responses among 143 asymptomatic individuals identified in a massive screening of more than 5 million people in eight districts of Wuhan in May 2020. Asymptomatic individuals were admitted to the government-designated centralized sites in accordance with policy. The incidence rate of asymptomatic infection is ~2.92/100,000. These individuals had low viral copy numbers (peaked at 315 copies/mL) and short-lived antibody responses with the estimated diminish time of 69 days.

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Fig: The detection of asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection and correlation with case number.

The antibody responses in individuals with persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection is much longer with the estimated diminish time of 257 days. These results imply that the immune responses in the asymptomatic individuals are not potent enough for preventing SARS-CoV-2 re-infection, which has recently been reported in recovered COVID-19 patients. This casts doubt on the efficacy of forming “herd-immunity” through natural SARS-CoV-2 infection and urges for the development of safe and effective vaccines.

Sui, Z., Dai, X., Lu, Q. et al. Viral dynamics and antibody responses in people with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Sig Transduct Target Ther 6, 181 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41392-021-00596-2

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