• NeutrobodyPlex-monitoring SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing immune responses using nanobodies.

      Wagner, Teresa R; Ostertag, Elena; Kaiser, Philipp D; Gramlich, Marius; Ruetalo, Natalia; Junker, Daniel; Haering, Julia; Traenkle, Bjoern; Becker, Matthias; Dulovic, Alex; et al. (EMBO Press, 2021-04-27)
      In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an ongoing need for diagnostic tools to monitor the immune status of large patient cohorts and the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. Here, we present 11 unique nanobodies (Nbs) specific for the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain (RBD), of which 8 Nbs potently inhibit the interaction of RBD with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as the major viral docking site. Following detailed epitope mapping and structural analysis, we select two inhibitory Nbs, one of which binds an epitope inside and one of which binds an epitope outside the RBD:ACE2 interface. Based on these, we generate a biparatopic nanobody (bipNb) with viral neutralization efficacy in the picomolar range. Using bipNb as a surrogate, we establish a competitive multiplex binding assay ("NeutrobodyPlex") for detailed analysis of the presence and performance of neutralizing RBD-binding antibodies in serum of convalescent or vaccinated patients. We demonstrate that NeutrobodyPlex enables high-throughput screening and detailed analysis of neutralizing immune responses in infected or vaccinated individuals, to monitor immune status or to guide vaccine design.
    • Strategic Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Serology Testing in a Low Prevalence Setting: The COVID-19 Contact (CoCo) Study in Healthcare Professionals.

      Behrens, Georg M N; Cossmann, Anne; Stankov, Metodi V; Schulte, Bianca; Streeck, Hendrik; Förster, Reinhold; Bosnjak, Berislav; Willenzon, Stefanie; Boeck, Anna-Lena; Thu Tran, Anh; et al. (Springer Healthcare, 2020-09-04)
      Background: Serology testing is explored for epidemiological research and to inform individuals after suspected infection. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, frontline healthcare professionals (HCP) may be at particular risk for infection. No longitudinal data on functional seroconversion in HCP in regions with low COVID-19 prevalence and low pre-test probability exist. Methods: In a large German university hospital, we performed weekly questionnaire assessments and anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunoglobulin G (IgG) measurements with various commercial tests, a novel surrogate virus neutralisation test, and a neutralisation assay using live SARS-CoV-2. Results: From baseline to week 6, 1080 screening measurements for anti-SARS CoV-2 (S1) IgG from 217 frontline HCP (65% female) were performed. Overall, 75.6% of HCP reported at least one symptom of respiratory infection. Self-perceived infection probability declined over time (from mean 20.1% at baseline to 12.4% in week 6, p < 0.001). In sera of convalescent patients with PCR-confirmed COVID-19, we measured high anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG levels, obtained highly concordant results from enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) using e.g. the spike 1 (S1) protein domain and the nucleocapsid protein (NCP) as targets, and confirmed antiviral neutralisation. However, in HCP the cumulative incidence for anti-SARS-CoV-2 (S1) IgG was 1.86% for positive and 0.93% for equivocal positive results over the study period of 6 weeks. Except for one HCP, none of the eight initial positive results were confirmed by alternative serology tests or showed in vitro neutralisation against live SARS-CoV-2. The only true seroconversion occurred without symptoms and mounted strong functional humoral immunity. Thus, the confirmed cumulative incidence for neutralizing anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG was 0.47%. Conclusion: When assessing anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune status in individuals with low pre-test probability, we suggest confirming positive results from single measurements by alternative serology tests or functional assays. Our data highlight the need for a methodical serology screening approach in regions with low SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.