Comparing antibody assays as correlates of protection against COVID-19 in the COVE mRNA-1273 vaccine efficacy trial


The best assay or marker to define mRNA-1273 vaccine–induced antibodies as a correlate of protection (CoP) is unclear. In the COVE trial, participants received two doses of the mRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccine or placebo. We previously assessed IgG binding antibodies to the spike protein (spike IgG) or receptor binding domain (RBD IgG) and pseudovirus neutralizing antibody 50 or 80% inhibitory dilution titer measured on day 29 or day 57, as correlates of risk (CoRs) and CoPs against symptomatic COVID-19 over 4 months after dose. Here, we assessed a new marker, live virus 50% microneutralization titer (LV-MN50), and compared and combined markers in multivariable analyses. LV-MN50 was an inverse CoR, with a hazard ratio of 0.39 (95% confidence interval, 0.19 to 0.83) at day 29 and 0.51 (95% confidence interval, 0.25 to 1.04) at day 57 per 10-fold increase.
In multivariable analyses, pseudovirus neutralization titers and anti-spike binding antibodies performed best as CoRs; combining antibody markers did not improve correlates. Pseudovirus neutralization titer was the strongest independent correlate in a multivariable model. Overall, these results supported pseudovirus neutralizing and binding antibody assays as CoRs and CoPs, with the live virus assay as a weaker correlate in this sample set. Day 29 markers performed as well as day 57 markers as CoPs, which could accelerate immunogenicity and immunobridging studies.