One-Year Follow-Up of COVID-19 Patients Indicates Substantial Assay-Dependent Differences in the Kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies

Alexander E. Egger, Sabina Sahanic, Andreas Gleiss, Franz Ratzinger, Barbara Holzer, Christian Irsara, Nikolaus Binder, Christoph Winkler, Christoph J. Binder, Wilfried Posch, Lorin Loacker, Boris Hartmann, Markus Anliker, Guenter Weiss, Thomas Sonnweber, Ivan Tancevski, Andrea Griesmacher, Judith Löffler-Ragg, Gregor Hoermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Determination of antibody levels against the nucleocapsid (N) and spike (S) proteins of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are used to estimate the humoral immune response after SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination. Differences in the design and specification of antibody assays challenge the interpretation of test results, and comparative studies are often limited to single time points per patient. We determined the longitudinal kinetics of antibody levels of 145 unvaccinated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients at four visits over 1 year upon convalescence using 8 commercial SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays (from Abbott, DiaSorin, Roche, Siemens, and Technoclone), as well as a virus neutralization test (VNT). A linear regression model was used to investigate whether antibody results obtained in the first 6 months after disease onset could predict the VNT results at 12 months. Spike protein-specific antibody tests showed good correlation to the VNT at individual time points (rS, 0.74 to 0.92). While longitudinal assay comparison with the Roche Elecsys anti-SARS-CoV-2 S test showed almost constant antibody concentrations over 12 months, the VNT and all other tests indicated a decline in serum antibody levels (median decrease to 14% to 36% of baseline). The antibody level at 3 months was the best predictor of the VNT results at 12 months after disease onset. The current standardization to a WHO calibrator for normalization to binding antibody units (BAU) is not sufficient for the harmonization of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests. Assay-specific differences in absolute values and trends over time need to be considered when interpreting the course of antibody levels in patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • antibody kinetics
  • assay comparison
  • neutralizing antibodies
  • predictive modelling


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