SARS-CoV-2–Specific Neutralizing Antibody Responses in Norwegian Health Care Workers After the First Wave of COVID-19 Pandemic: A Prospective Cohort Study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Infectious Diseases. 2021, 223 (4), 589-599. 10.1093/infdis/jiaa737
Background During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many countries experienced infection in health care workers (HCW) due to overburdened health care systems. Whether infected HCW acquire protective immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unclear. Methods In a Norwegian prospective cohort study, we enrolled 607 HCW before and after the first COVID-19 wave. Exposure history, COVID-19–like symptoms, and serum samples were collected. SARS-CoV-2–specific antibodies were characterized by spike-protein IgG/IgM/IgA enzyme-linked immunosorbent and live-virus neutralization assays. Results Spike-specific IgG/IgM/IgA antibodies increased after the first wave in HCW with, but not in HCW without, COVID-19 patient exposure. Thirty-two HCW (5.3%) had spike-specific antibodies (11 seroconverted with ≥4-fold increase, 21 were seropositive at baseline). Neutralizing antibodies were found in 11 HCW that seroconverted, of whom 4 (36.4%) were asymptomatic. Ninety-seven HCW were tested by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) during follow-up; 8 were positive (7 seroconverted, 1 had undetectable antibodies). Conclusions We found increases in SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in infected HCW, especially after COVID-19 patient exposure. Our data show a low number of SARS-CoV-2–seropositive HCW in a low-prevalence setting; however, the proportion of seropositivity was higher than RT-PCR positivity, highlighting the importance of antibody testing.