Haemodialysis patients are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. Their immune response after infection is unclear. We have found high seroconversion rates in this population with 95% developing antibodies. It is unclear if and how long these antibodies persist. Here we investigate this with serial antibody testing.
We identified haemodialysis patients who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 between March-May 2020 and measured monthly antibodies (IgG/IgM) in those who survived. We used a semi-quantitative cut-off index (COI) to create a qualitative result and plotted optical density (OD) over time. We used linear regression to examine the slope, as well as noting peak OD and time to peak OD. We correlated these against baseline demographics, markers of illness severity, and comorbidities.
122 patients were analysed. All remained antibody positive during follow-up; for a minimum of 148 days. 71% had a positive gradient indicating increasing antibody positivity over time. We found that age (p = 0.01), duration of PCR positivity (p = 0.06) and presence of symptoms (p = 0.05) were associated with a longer time to peak OD. Immunosuppression did not alter peak OD but did lead to a non-significant increase in time to peak OD and more patients had a subsequent fall in Ab levels (p = 0.02). Diabetic patients were more likely to have a positive slope (OR 2.26).
These results indicate that haemodialysis patients have a robust and sustained antibody response after confirmed COVID-19 infection with no suggestion that immunosuppression weakens this response. Although unclear what protection these antibodies confer, this encouraging that haemodialysis patients should respond to vaccination.