An evaluation of a FluoroSpot assay as a diagnostic tool to determine SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses.

Mangsbo SM, Havervall S, Laurén I, Lindsay R, Jernbom Falk A, Marking U, Lord M, Buggert M, Dönnes P, Christoffersson G, Nilsson P, Hober S, Phillipson M, Klingström J, Thålin C

PLoS ONE 16 (9) e0258041 [2021-09-30; online 2021-09-30]

Numerous assays evaluating serological and cellular responses have been developed to characterize immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. Serological assays are both cost- and time-effective compared to cellular assays, but cellular immune responses may provide a diagnostic value to determine previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in seronegative individuals. However, potential cross-reactive T cell responses stemming from prior encounters with human coronaviruses (HCoVs) may affect assay specificity. In this study, we evaluated the specificity and sensitivity of a SARS-CoV-2 IFN-γ Release Assay (IGRA) based on the FluoroSpot method employing commercially available SARS-CoV-2-specific peptide pools, as well as an in-house designed SARS-CoV-2 peptide pool restricted to 5 amino acid stretches or less aligning with endemic HCoVs. Blood samples were obtained from healthcare workers (HCW) 5-6 months post SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) IgG and nucleocapsid (N) IgG dual seroconversion (n = 187) and HCW who had been S IgG and N IgG dual seronegative at repeated occasions, including the current sampling time point (n = 102). In addition, samples were obtained 4 to 5 months post infection from 55 polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-confirmed COVID-19 patients. Assay specificity and sensitivity were calculated with serology as a reference standard for HCW. The in-house generated peptide pool displayed a specificity of 96.1%, while the commercially available peptide pools displayed specificities of 80.4% and 85.3%, respectively. Sensitivity was higher in a cohort of previously hospitalized COVID-19 patients (96.4% and 84.0% for the commercially available peptide pools and 92.7% for the in-house generated peptide pool) compared to the HCW cohort (92.0% and 66.8% for the commercially available peptide pools and 76.0% for the in-house generated peptide pool). Based on these findings, the individual diagnostic value of T cell immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 currently appears to be limited but remain an important research tool ahead.

Autoimmunity and Serology Profiling [Technology development]

PubMed 34591918

DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0258041

Crossref 10.1371/journal.pone.0258041

pii: PONE-D-21-19070
pmc: PMC8483319

Publications 9.5.0