Sensitive and Specific Detection of Low-Level Antibody Responses in Mild Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infections.Emerg Infect Dis. 2019 10; 25(10):1868-1877.EI
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections in humans can cause asymptomatic to fatal lower respiratory lung disease. Despite posing a probable risk for virus transmission, asymptomatic to mild infections can go unnoticed; a lack of seroconversion among some PCR-confirmed cases has been reported. We found that a MERS-CoV spike S1 protein-based ELISA, routinely used in surveillance studies, showed low sensitivity in detecting infections among PCR-confirmed patients with mild clinical symptoms and cross-reactivity of human coronavirus OC43-positive serum samples. Using in-house S1 ELISA and protein microarray, we demonstrate that most PCR-confirmed MERS-CoV case-patients with mild infections seroconverted; nonetheless, some of these samples did not have detectable levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies. The use of a sensitive and specific serologic S1-based assay can be instrumental in the accurate estimation of MERS-CoV prevalence.