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DOI: 10.1101/2022.12.22.22283858

Methodological approaches to optimize multiplex oral fluid SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay performance and correlation with serologic and neutralizing antibody responses

N.Pisanic A. A. R. Antar K. L. Kruczynski ...+11 C. D. Heaney
Background. Oral fluid (hereafter, saliva) is a non-invasive and attractive alternative to blood for SARS-CoV-2 IgG testing; however, the heterogeneity of saliva as a matrix poses challenges for immunoassay performance. Objectives. To optimize performance of a magnetic microparticle-based multiplex immunoassay (MIA) for SARS-CoV-2 IgG measurement in saliva, with consideration of: i) threshold setting and validation across different MIA bead batches; ii) sample qualification based on salivary total IgG concentration; iii) calibration to U.S. SARS-CoV-2 serological standard binding antibody units (BAU); and iv) correlations with blood-based SARS-CoV-2 serological and neutralizing antibody (nAb) assays. Methods. The salivary SARS-CoV-2 IgG MIA included 2 nucleocapsid (N), 3 receptor-binding domain (RBD), and 2 spike protein (S) antigens. Gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) swab saliva samples were collected before December, 2019 (n=555) and after molecular test-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection from 113 individuals (providing up to 5 repeated-measures; n=398) and used to optimize and validate MIA performance (total n=953). Combinations of IgG responses to N, RBD and S and total salivary IgG concentration (g/mL) as a qualifier of nonreactive samples were optimized and validated, calibrated to the U.S. SARS-CoV-2 serological standard, and correlated with blood-based SARS-CoV-2 IgG ELISA and nAb assays. Results. The sum of signal to cutoff (S/Co) to all seven MIA SARS-CoV-2 antigens and disqualification of nonreactive saliva samples with >15 g/mL total IgG led to correct classification of 62/62 positives (sensitivity [Se]=100.0%; 95% confidence interval [CI]=94.8%, 100.0%) and 108/109 negatives (specificity [Sp]=99.1%; 95% CI=97.3%, 100.0%) at 8-million beads coupling scale and 80/81 positives (Se=98.8%; 95% CI=93.3%, 100.0%] and 127/127 negatives (Sp=100%; 95% CI=97.1%, 100.0%) at 20-million beads coupling scale. Salivary SARS-CoV-2 IgG crossed the MIA cutoff of 0.1 BAU/mL on average 9 days post-COVID-19 symptom onset and peaked around day 30. Among n=30 matched saliva and plasma samples, salivary SARS-CoV-2 MIA IgG levels correlated with corresponding-antigen plasma ELISA IgG (N: {rho}=0.67, RBD: {rho}=0.76, S: {rho} =0.82; all p<0.0001). Correlations of plasma SARS-CoV-2 nAb assay area under the curve (AUC) with salivary MIA IgG (N: {rho}=0.68, RBD: {rho}=0.78, S: {rho} =0.79; all p<0.0001) and with plasma ELISA IgG (N: {rho}=0.76, RBD: {rho}=0.79, S: {rho} =0.76; p<0.0001) were similar. Conclusions. A salivary SARS-CoV-2 IgG MIA produced consistently high Se (>98.8%) and Sp (>99.1%) across two bead coupling scales and correlations with nAb responses that were similar to blood-based SARS-CoV-2 IgG ELISA data. This non-invasive salivary SARS-CoV-2 IgG MIA could increase engagement of vulnerable populations and improve broad understanding of humoral immunity (kinetics and gaps) within the evolving context of booster vaccination, viral variants and waning immunity.