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Serological Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies in Naturally-Infected Mink and Other Experimentally-Infected Animals

The recent emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in humans from a yet unidentified animal reservoir and the capacity of the virus to naturally infect pets, farmed animals and potentially wild animals has highlighted the need for serological surveillance tools. In this study, the luciferase immunoprecipitation systems (LIPS), employing the spike (S) and nucleocapsid proteins (N) of SARS-CoV-2, was used to examine the suitability of the assay for antibody detection in different animal species. Sera from SARS-CoV-2 naturally-infected mink (n = 77), SARS-CoV-2 experimentally-infected ferrets, fruit bats and hamsters and a rabbit vaccinated with a purified spike protein were examined for antibodies using the SARS-CoV-2 N and/or S proteins. From comparison with the known neutralization status of the serum samples, statistical analyses including calculation of the Spearman rank-order-correlation coefficient and Cohen’s kappa agreement were used to interpret the antibody results and diagnostic performance. The LIPS immunoassay robustly detected the presence of viral antibodies in naturally infected SARS-CoV-2 mink, experimentally infected ferrets, fruit bats and hamsters as well as in an immunized rabbit. For the SARS-CoV-2-LIPS-S assay, there was a good level of discrimination between the positive and negative samples for each of the five species tested with 100% agreement with the virus neutralization results. In contrast, the SARS-CoV-2-LIPS-N assay did not consistently differentiate between SARS-CoV-2 positive and negative sera. This study demonstrates the suitability of the SARS-CoV-2-LIPS-S assay for the sero-surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a range of animal species.



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