A Novel Immunofluorescence Assay for the Rapid Serological Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Nguyen D., Skelly D., Goonawardane N.
As of April 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept through 213 countries and infected more than 132 million individuals globally, posing an unprecedented threat to human health. There are currently no specific antiviral treatments for COVID-19 and vaccination programmes, whilst promising, remain in their infancy. A key to restricting the pandemic is the ability to minimize human–human transmission and to predict the infection status of the population in the face of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. Success in this area is dependent on the rapid detection of COVID-19 positive individuals with current/previous SARS-CoV-2 infection status. In this regard, the ability to detect antibodies directed against the SARS-CoV-Spike protein in patient sera represents a powerful biomarker for confirmation of infection. Here, we report the design of a proof-of-concept cell–based fluorescent serology assay (termed C19-S-I-IFA) to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. The assay is based on the capture of IgG antibodies in the serum of COVID-19-positive patients using cells exogenously expressing SARS-CoV-2-Spike and their subsequent fluorescent detection. We validate the assay in 30 blood samples collected in Oxford, UK, in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Importantly, the assay can be modified to express emerging Spike-variants to permit assessments of the cross-reactivity of patient sera to emerging SARS-CoV-2 strains.