Discrete SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers track with functional humoral stability

Yannic C. Bartsch, Stephanie Fischinger, Sameed M. Siddiqui, Zhilin Chen, Jingyou Yu, Makda Gebre, Caroline Atyeo, Matthew J. Gorman, Alex Lee Zhu, Jaewon Kang, John S. Burke, Matthew Slein, Matthew J. Gluck, Samuel Beger, Yiyuan Hu, Justin Rhee, Eric Petersen, Benjamin Mormann, Michael de St Aubin, Mohammad A. HasdiandaGuruprasad Jambaulikar, Edward W. Boyer, Pardis C. Sabeti, Dan H. Barouch, Boris D. Julg, Elon R. Musk, Anil S. Menon, Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Eric J. Nilles, Galit Alter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Antibodies serve as biomarkers of infection, but if sustained can confer long-term immunity. Yet, for most clinically approved vaccines, binding antibody titers only serve as a surrogate of protection. Instead, the ability of vaccine induced antibodies to neutralize or mediate Fc-effector functions is mechanistically linked to protection. While evidence has begun to point to persisting antibody responses among SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, cases of re-infection have begun to emerge, calling the protective nature of humoral immunity against this highly infectious pathogen into question. Using a community-based surveillance study, we aimed to define the relationship between titers and functional antibody activity to SARS-CoV-2 over time. Here we report significant heterogeneity, but limited decay, across antibody titers amongst 120 identified seroconverters, most of whom had asymptomatic infection. Notably, neutralization, Fc-function, and SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses were only observed in subjects that elicited RBD-specific antibody titers above a threshold. The findings point to a switch-like relationship between observed antibody titer and function, where a distinct threshold of activity—defined by the level of antibodies—is required to elicit vigorous humoral and cellular response. This response activity level may be essential for durable protection, potentially explaining why re-infections occur with SARS-CoV-2 and other common coronaviruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1018
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


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