J Immunol 205 (9) 2437-2446 [2020-11-01; online 2020-09-02]
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in late 2019 and has since become a global pandemic. Pathogen-specific Abs are typically a major predictor of protective immunity, yet human B cell and Ab responses during COVID-19 are not fully understood. In this study, we analyzed Ab-secreting cell and Ab responses in 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The patients exhibited typical symptoms of COVID-19 and presented with reduced lymphocyte numbers and increased T cell and B cell activation. Importantly, we detected an expansion of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein-specific Ab-secreting cells in all 20 COVID-19 patients using a multicolor FluoroSpot Assay. Out of the 20 patients, 16 had developed SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing Abs by the time of inclusion in the study. SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA, IgG, and IgM Ab levels positively correlated with SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing Ab titers, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2-specific Ab levels may reflect the titers of neutralizing Abs in COVID-19 patients during the acute phase of infection. Last, we showed that IL-6 and C-reactive protein serum concentrations were higher in patients who were hospitalized for longer, supporting the recent observations that IL-6 and C-reactive protein could be used as markers for COVID-19 severity. Altogether, this study constitutes a detailed description of clinical and immunological parameters in 20 COVID-19 patients, with a focus on B cell and Ab responses, and describes tools to study immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination.