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Immunoassays targeting different SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies are employed for seroprevalence studies. The degree of variability between immunoassays targeting anti-nucleocapsid (anti-NP; the majority) vs the potentially neutralising anti-spike antibodies (including anti-receptor-binding domain; anti-RBD), particularly in mild or asymptomatic disease, remains unclear.


We aimed to explore variability in anti-NP and anti-RBD antibody detectability following mild symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and analyse antibody response for correlation with symptomatology.


A multicentre prospective cross-sectional study was undertaken (April–July 2020). Paired serum samples were tested for anti-NP and anti-RBD IgG antibodies and reactivity expressed as binding ratios (BR). Multivariate linear regression was performed analysing age, sex, time since onset, symptomatology, anti-NP and anti-RBD antibody BR.


We included 906 adults. Antibody results (793/906; 87.5%; 95% confidence interval: 85.2–89.6) and BR strongly correlated (ρ = 0.75). PCR-confirmed cases were more frequently identified by anti-RBD (129/130) than anti-NP (123/130). Anti-RBD testing identified 83 of 325 (25.5%) cases otherwise reported as negative for anti-NP. Anti-NP presence (+1.75/unit increase; p < 0.001), fever (≥ 38°C; +1.81; p < 0.001) or anosmia (+1.91; p < 0.001) were significantly associated with increased anti-RBD BR. Age (p = 0.85), sex (p = 0.28) and cough (p = 0.35) were not. When time since symptom onset was considered, we did not observe a significant change in anti-RBD BR (p = 0.95) but did note decreasing anti-NP BR (p < 0.001).


SARS-CoV-2 anti-RBD IgG showed significant correlation with anti-NP IgG for absolute seroconversion and BR. Higher BR were seen in symptomatic individuals, particularly those with fever. Inter-assay variability (12.5%) was evident and raises considerations for optimising seroprevalence testing strategies/studies.


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