Infectious Disease

A earlier seasonal coronavirus an infection doesn’t set off an immune response to SARS-CoV-2

January 10, 2021

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A previous seasonal coronavirus infection does not provide a cross-reactive immune response to SARS-CoV-2, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study showed that “neutralizing activity against seasonal coronaviruses is nearly ubiquitous in sera collected from individuals with PCR-confirmed prepandemic seasonal coronavirus infection”. Daniel Poston, a graduate student at Rockefeller University’s Retrovirology Laboratory, and colleagues wrote. “Indeed, most of the sera had neutralizing activity against several seasonal coronaviruses, and some sera had greater neutralizing potency against various coronaviruses than those detected at the time of sampling.”

Poston and colleagues analyzed 37 prepandemic serum samples from symptomatic inpatients with a confirmed diagnosis of HCoV-OC43 (20), HCoV-NL63 (10), or HCoV-229E (7) patients in Edinburgh, Scotland. Between April and May 2020, 10 serum samples were taken from patients with symptomatic, PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. The researchers then used neutralization tests to assess whether previous seasonal coronavirus infection could elicit antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

None of the 37 samples exposed to a previous coronavirus showed a detectable neutralization effect against SARS-CoV-2, they reported. Samples exposed to a previous coronavirus showed neutralizing activity against the corresponding virus, but the neutralizing titers varied between viruses according to the study.

While most of the sera showed neutralizing activity against multiple coronaviruses and others showed a higher neutralizing effect against other coronaviruses than those collected in the sample, the authors said this effect “could be due to inherent differences in neutralization sensitivity between the seasonal coronaviruses” that were not previously documented infection with another coronavirus.

“Contrary to other reports, the prepandemic sera used in our study, which have undetectable neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2, can neutralize seasonal HCoVs, quite severely in some cases,” the researchers wrote. “While it is possible that there are rare cases of individuals who have antibodies to a previous seasonal HCoV infection that may also target SARS-CoV-2 S, our data argue against a broad role for pre-existing humoral Protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2. ”

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