Stringent thresholds for SARS-CoV-2 IgG assays result in under-detection of cases reporting loss of taste/smell
Eyre D., Lumley S., O’Donnell D., Stoesser N., Matthews P., Howarth A., Hatch S., Marsden B., Cox S., James T., Cornall R., Stuart D., Screaton G., Ebner D., Crook D., Conlon C., Jeffery K., Walker T., Peto TEA.
Thresholds for SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays have typically been determined using samples from symptomatic, often hospitalised, patients. Assay performance following mild/asymptomatic infection is unclear. We assessed IgG responses in asymptomatic healthcare workers with a high pre-test probability of Covid-19, e.g. 807/9292(8.9%) reported loss of smell/taste. The proportion reporting anosmia/ageusia increased at antibody titres below diagnostic thresholds for both an in-house ELISA and the Abbott Architect chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay (CMIA): 424/903(47%) reported anosmia/ageusia with a positive ELISA, 59/387(13.2%) with high-negative titres, and 324/7943(4.1%) with low-negative results. Adjusting for the proportion of staff reporting anosmia/ageusia suggests the sensitivity of both assays is lower than previously reported: Oxford ELISA 90.8% (95%CI 86.1-92.1%) and Abbott CMIA 80.9% (77.5-84.3%). However, the sensitivity may be lower if some anosmia/ageusia in those with low-negative titres is Covid-19-associated. Samples from individuals with mild/asymptomatic infection should be included in SARS-CoV-2 immunoassay evaluations. Reporting equivocal SARS-CoV-2 antibody results should be considered.