2021 Volume 6, Issue 61, eabe9950
The spillover of animal coronaviruses (aCoVs) to humans has caused SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. While antibody responses displaying cross-reactivity between SARS-CoV-2 and seasonal/common cold human coronaviruses (hCoVs) have been reported, potential cross-reactivity with aCoVs and the diagnostic implications are incompletely understood. Here, we probed for antibody binding against all seven hCoVs and 49 aCoVs represented as 12,924 peptides within a phage-displayed antigen library. Antibody repertoires of 269 recovered COVID-19 patients showed distinct changes compared to 260 unexposed pre-pandemic controls, not limited to binding of SARS-CoV-2 antigens but including binding to antigens from hCoVs and aCoVs with shared motifs to SARS-CoV-2. We isolated broadly reactive monoclonal antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients that bind a shared motif of SARS-CoV-2, hCoV-OC43, hCoV-HKU1, and several aCoVs, demonstrating that interspecies cross-reactivity can be mediated by a single immunoglobulin. Employing antibody binding data against the entire CoV antigen library allowed accurate discrimination of recovered COVID-19 patients from unexposed individuals by machine learning. Leaving out SARS-CoV-2 antigens and relying solely on antibody binding to other hCoVs and aCoVs achieved equally accurate detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The ability to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection without knowledge of its unique antigens solely from cross-reactive antibody responses against other hCoVs and aCoVs suggests a potential diagnostic strategy for the early stage of future pandemics. Creating regularly updated antigen libraries representing the animal coronavirome can provide the basis for a serological assay already poised to identify infected individuals following a future zoonotic transmission event.
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