Preexisting and de novo humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in humans

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Zoonotic introduction of novel coronaviruses may encounter preexisting immunity in humans. Using diverse assays for antibodies recognizing SARS-CoV-2 proteins, we detect preexisting humoral immunity. SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (S)-reactive antibodies were detectable by a flow cytometry-based method in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents. They were predominantly of the IgG class and targeted the S2 subunit. By contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection induced higher titers of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive IgG antibodies, targeting both the S1 and S2 subunits, and concomitant IgM and IgA antibodies, lasting throughout the observation period. Notably, SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera exhibited specific neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotypes. Distinguishing preexisting and de novo immunity will be critical for our understanding of susceptibility to and the natural course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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