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BackgroundLittle is known about the persistence of antibodies after the first year following SARS-CoV-2 infection. We aimed to determine the proportion of individuals that maintain detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies over an 18-month period following infection.MethodsPopulation-based prospective study of 20 000 UK Biobank participants and their adult relatives recruited in May 2020. The proportion of SARS-CoV-2 cases testing positive for immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies against the spike protein (IgG-S), and the nucleocapsid protein (IgG-N), was calculated at varying intervals following infection.ResultsOverall, 20 195 participants were recruited. Their median age was 56 years (IQR 39-68), 56% were female and 88% were of white ethnicity. The proportion of SARS-CoV-2 cases with IgG-S antibodies following infection remained high (92%, 95% CI 90%-93%) at 6 months after infection. Levels of IgG-N antibodies following infection gradually decreased from 92% (95% CI 88%-95%) at 3 months to 72% (95% CI 70%-75%) at 18 months. There was no strong evidence of heterogeneity in antibody persistence by age, sex, ethnicity or socioeconomic deprivation.ConclusionThis study adds to the limited evidence on the long-term persistence of antibodies following SARS-CoV-2 infection, with likely implications for waning immunity following infection and the use of IgG-N in population surveys.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of epidemiology and community health

Publication Date



Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK