Occurrence of COVID-19 Symptoms During SARS-CoV-2 Infection Defines Waning of Humoral Immunity

Approximately half of the SARS-CoV-2 infections occur without apparent symptoms, raising questions regarding long-term humoral immunity in asymptomatic individuals. Plasma levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) and M (IgM) against the viral spike or nucleoprotein were determined for 25,091 individuals enrolled in a surveillance program in Wuhan, China. We compared 405 asymptomatic individuals who mounted a detectable antibody response with 459 symptomatic COVID-19 patients. The well-defined duration of the SARS-CoV-2 endemic in Wuhan allowed a side-by-side comparison of antibody responses following symptomatic and asymptomatic infections without subsequent antigen re-exposure. IgM responses rapidly declined in both groups. However, both the prevalence and durability of IgG responses and neutralizing capacities correlated positively with symptoms. Regardless of sex, age, and body weight, asymptomatic individuals lost their SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibodies more often and rapidly than symptomatic patients did. These findings have important implications for immunity and favour immunization programs including individuals after asymptomatic infections.


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