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Pre-existing humoral immunity to human common cold coronaviruses negatively impacts the protective SARS-CoV-2 antibody response.


SARS-CoV-2 infection causes diverse outcomes ranging from asymptomatic infection to respiratory distress and death. A major unresolved question is whether prior immunity to endemic, human common cold coronaviruses (hCCCoVs) impacts susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection or immunity following infection and vaccination. Therefore, we analyzed samples from the same individuals before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination. We found hCCCoV antibody levels increase after SARS-CoV-2 exposure, demonstrating cross-reactivity. However, a case-control study indicates that baseline hCCCoV antibody levels are not associated with protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Rather, higher magnitudes of pre-existing betacoronavirus antibodies correlate with more SARS-CoV-2 antibodies following infection, an indicator of greater disease severity. Additionally, immunization with hCCCoV spike proteins before SARS-CoV-2 immunization impedes the generation of SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies in mice. Together, these data suggest that pre-existing hCCCoV antibodies hinder SARS-CoV-2 antibody-based immunity following infection and provide insight on how pre-existing coronavirus immunity impacts SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is critical considering emerging variants.

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