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Background: Given the low levels of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine coverage in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA), despite high levels of natural severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) exposures, strategies for extending the breadth and longevity of naturally acquired immunity are warranted. Designing such strategies will require a good understanding of natural immunity. Methods: We measured whole-spike immunoglobulin G (IgG) and spike-receptor binding domain (RBD) total immunoglobulins (Igs) on 585 plasma samples collected longitudinally over five successive time points within six months of COVID-19 diagnosis in 309 COVID-19 patients. We measured antibody-neutralising potency against the wild-type (Wuhan) SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus in a subset of 51 patients over three successive time points. Binding and neutralising antibody levels and potencies were then tested for correlations with COVID-19 severities. Results: Rates of seroconversion increased from day 0 (day of PCR testing) to day 180 (six months) (63.6% to 100 %) and (69.3 % to 97%) for anti-spike-IgG and anti-spike-RBD binding Igs, respectively. Levels of these binding antibodies peaked at day 28 (p<0.0001) and were subsequently maintained for six months without significant decay (p>0.99). Similarly, antibody-neutralising potencies peaked at day 28 (p<0.0001) but declined by three-fold, six months after COVID-19 diagnosis (p<0.0001). Binding antibody levels were highly correlated with neutralising antibody potencies at all the time points analysed (r>0.6, p<0.0001). Levels and potencies of binding and neutralising antibodies increased with disease severity. Conclusions: Most COVID-19 patients generated SARS-CoV-2 specific binding antibodies that remained stable in the first six months of infection. However, the respective neutralising antibodies decayed three-fold by month-six of COVID-19 diagnosis suggesting that they are short-lived, consistent with what has been observed elsewhere in the world. Thus, regular vaccination boosters are required to sustain the high levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 naturally acquired neutralising antibody potencies in our population.

Original publication





Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





350 - 350