Contributing to research themes:
This research has not been peer-reviewed. It is a preliminary report that should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice or health-related behaviour, or be reported in news media as established information.
Most studies of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 focus on circulating antibody, giving limited insights into mucosal defences that prevent viral replication and onward transmission. We studied nasal and plasma antibody responses one year after hospitalisation for COVID-19, including a period when SARS-CoV-2 vaccination was introduced.
Plasma and nasosorption samples were prospectively collected from 446 adults hospitalised for COVID-19 between February 2020 and March 2021 via the ISARIC4C and PHOSP-COVID consortia. IgA and IgG responses to NP and S of ancestral SARS-CoV-2, Delta and Omicron (BA.1) variants were measured by electrochemiluminescence and compared with plasma neutralisation data.
Strong and consistent nasal anti-NP and anti-S IgA responses were demonstrated, which remained elevated for nine months. Nasal and plasma anti-S IgG remained elevated for at least 12 months with high plasma neutralising titres against all variants. Of 180 with complete data, 160 were vaccinated between 6 and 12 months; coinciding with rises in nasal and plasma IgA and IgG anti-S titres for all SARS-CoV-2 variants, although the change in nasal IgA was minimal. Samples 12 months after admission showed no association between nasal IgA and plasma IgG responses, indicating that nasal IgA responses are distinct from those in plasma and minimally boosted by vaccination.
The decline in nasal IgA responses 9 months after infection and minimal impact of subsequent vaccination may explain the lack of long-lasting nasal defence against reinfection and the limited effects of vaccination on transmission. These findings highlight the need to develop vaccines that enhance nasal immunity.