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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-296969


BACKGROUND The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant has spread internationally and is responsible for rapidly increasing case numbers. The emergence of divergent variants in the context of a heterogeneous and evolving neutralizing antibody response in host populations might compromise protection afforded by vaccines or prior infection. METHODS We measured neutralizing antibody titers in 169 longitudinally collected plasma samples using pseudotypes bearing the Wuhan-hu-1 or the Omicron variant or a laboratory-designed neutralization-resistant SARS-CoV-2 spike (PMS20). Plasmas were obtained from convalescents who did or did not subsequently receive an mRNA vaccine, or naive individuals who received 3-doses of mRNA or 1-dose Ad26 vaccines. Samples were collected approximately 1, 5-6 and 12 months after initial vaccination or infection. RESULTS Like PMS20, the Omicron spike protein was substantially resistant to neutralization compared to Wuhan-hu-1. In convalescent plasma the median deficit in neutralizing activity against PMS20 or Omicron was 30- to 60-fold. Plasmas from recipients of 2 mRNA vaccine doses were 30- to 180- fold less potent against PMS20 and Omicron than Wuhan-hu-1. Notably, previously infected or two-mRNA dose vaccinated individuals who received additional mRNA vaccine dose(s) had 38 to 154-fold and 35 to 214-fold increases in neutralizing activity against Omicron and PMS20 respectively. CONCLUSIONS Omicron exhibits similar distribution of sequence changes and neutralization resistance as does a laboratory-designed neutralization-resistant spike protein, suggesting natural evolutionary pressure to evade the human antibody response. Currently available mRNA vaccine boosters, that may promote antibody affinity maturation, significantly ameliorate SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titers.