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Lancet Microbe ; 1(3): e111-e118, 2020 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-940890


BACKGROUND: The role of subclinical severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in perpetuating the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown because population seroprevalence data are absent. We aimed to establish the sensitivity and specificity of our enzyme immunoassay and microneutralisation assay, and the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong before and after the pandemic, as well as in Hong Kong residents evacuated from Hubei province, China. METHODS: We did a multicohort study in a hospital and university in Hong Kong. We evaluated the sensitivity of our enzyme immunoassay and microneutralisation assay with RT-PCR data from patients positive for SARS-CoV-2 and the specificity of our enzyme immunoassay and microneutralisation assay with archived serum samples collected before 2019. We compared the seropositivity of the general population of Hong Kong before and after the pandemic had begun, and determined the seropositivity of Hong Kong residents evacuated from Hubei province, China, in March, 2020. FINDINGS: Between Feb 26 and March 18, 2020, we assessed RT-PCR samples from 45 patients who had recovered from COVID-19 to establish the sensitivity of our enzyme immunoassay and microneutralisation assay. To establish the specificity of these assays, we retrieved archived serum. The sensitivity was 91·1% (41 of 45 [95% CI 78·8-97·5]) for the microneutralisation assay, 57·8% (26 of 45 [42·2-72·3]) for anti-nucleoprotein IgG, 66·7% (30 of 45 [51·1-80·0]) for anti-spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) IgG, and 73·3% (33 of 45 [58·1-85·4]) for enzyme immunoassay (either positive for anti-nucleoprotein or anti-RBD IgG). The specificity was 100% (152 of 152 [95% CI 97·6-100·0]) for both the enzyme immunoassay and microneutralisation assay. Among the Hong Kong general population, 53 (2·7%) of 1938 were enzyme immunoassay positive, but of those who were positive, all 53 were microneutralisation negative, and no significant increase was seen in the seroprevalence between April 12, 2018, and Feb 13, 2020. Among asymptomatic Hubei returnees, 17 (4%) of 452 were seropositive with the enzyme immunoassay or the microneutralisation assay, with 15 (88%) of 17 seropositive with the microneutralisation assay, and two familial clusters were identified. INTERPRETATION: Our serological data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is a new emerging virus. The seropositivity rate in Hubei returnees indicates that RT-PCR-confirmed patients only represent a small proportion of the total number of cases. The low seroprevalence suggests that most of the Hong Kong and Hubei population remain susceptible to COVID-19. Future waves of the outbreak are inevitable without a vaccine or antiviral prophylaxis. The role of age-related cross reactive non-neutralising antibodies in the pathogenesis of COVID-19 warrants further investigation. FUNDING: Richard and Carol Yu, May Tam Mak Mei Yin, Shaw Foundation (Hong Kong), Michael Tong, Marina Lee, and the Government Consultancy Service (see acknowledgments for full list).

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antibodies, Viral , COVID-19/diagnosis , China/epidemiology , Hong Kong/epidemiology , Humans , Immunoglobulin G , Pandemics , Seroepidemiologic Studies
Lancet Infect Dis ; 20(5): 565-574, 2020 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-14173


BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) causes severe community and nosocomial outbreaks. Comprehensive data for serial respiratory viral load and serum antibody responses from patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are not yet available. Nasopharyngeal and throat swabs are usually obtained for serial viral load monitoring of respiratory infections but gathering these specimens can cause discomfort for patients and put health-care workers at risk. We aimed to ascertain the serial respiratory viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in posterior oropharyngeal (deep throat) saliva samples from patients with COVID-19, and serum antibody responses. METHODS: We did a cohort study at two hospitals in Hong Kong. We included patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. We obtained samples of blood, urine, posterior oropharyngeal saliva, and rectal swabs. Serial viral load was ascertained by reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Antibody levels against the SARS-CoV-2 internal nucleoprotein (NP) and surface spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) were measured using EIA. Whole-genome sequencing was done to identify possible mutations arising during infection. FINDINGS: Between Jan 22, 2020, and Feb 12, 2020, 30 patients were screened for inclusion, of whom 23 were included (median age 62 years [range 37-75]). The median viral load in posterior oropharyngeal saliva or other respiratory specimens at presentation was 5·2 log10 copies per mL (IQR 4·1-7·0). Salivary viral load was highest during the first week after symptom onset and subsequently declined with time (slope -0·15, 95% CI -0·19 to -0·11; R2=0·71). In one patient, viral RNA was detected 25 days after symptom onset. Older age was correlated with higher viral load (Spearman's ρ=0·48, 95% CI 0·074-0·75; p=0·020). For 16 patients with serum samples available 14 days or longer after symptom onset, rates of seropositivity were 94% for anti-NP IgG (n=15), 88% for anti-NP IgM (n=14), 100% for anti-RBD IgG (n=16), and 94% for anti-RBD IgM (n=15). Anti-SARS-CoV-2-NP or anti-SARS-CoV-2-RBD IgG levels correlated with virus neutralisation titre (R2>0·9). No genome mutations were detected on serial samples. INTERPRETATION: Posterior oropharyngeal saliva samples are a non-invasive specimen more acceptable to patients and health-care workers. Unlike severe acute respiratory syndrome, patients with COVID-19 had the highest viral load near presentation, which could account for the fast-spreading nature of this epidemic. This finding emphasises the importance of stringent infection control and early use of potent antiviral agents, alone or in combination, for high-risk individuals. Serological assay can complement RT-qPCR for diagnosis. FUNDING: Richard and Carol Yu, May Tam Mak Mei Yin, The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong, Michael Tong, Marina Lee, Government Consultancy Service, and Sanming Project of Medicine.

Antibodies, Viral/blood , Betacoronavirus/isolation & purification , Coronavirus Infections/diagnosis , Pneumonia, Viral/diagnosis , Saliva/virology , Adult , Aged , Betacoronavirus/genetics , Betacoronavirus/immunology , COVID-19 , COVID-19 Testing , Clinical Laboratory Techniques , Coronavirus Infections/immunology , Coronavirus Infections/virology , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/immunology , Pneumonia, Viral/virology , SARS-CoV-2 , Severity of Illness Index , Viral Load