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Nucleocapsid protein-specific IgM antibody responses in the disease progression of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome

Wang, Gai, Chang, Haiyan, Jia, Bei, Liu, Yong, Huang, Rui, Wu, Weihua, Hao, Yingying, Yan, Xiaomin, Xia, Juan, Chen, Yuxin, Wu, Chao
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2019
RNA, SFTS virus, antibodies, blood serum, coagulation, death, emerging diseases, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, fever, humoral immunity, immunoglobulin G, immunoglobulin M, mortality, nucleocapsid, nucleocapsid proteins, patients, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, risk, thrombocytopenia, tick-borne diseases, ticks, viral antigens, viral load
Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging infectious disease that is caused by the SFTS virus (SFTSV) and has a high fatality rate. SFTSV-specific antibody profiles among patients with different clinical outcomes are yet to be described. The nucleocapsid protein (NP) is the most immunogenic viral antigen of the SFTSV. This study, therefore, sought to determine NP-specific antibody responses among SFTS patients with different disease progressions.In the present study, 43 patients with confirmed SFTS were enrolled in our cohort, and 9 of them deceased. The clinical presentations and key laboratory parameters associated with SFTS fatality were also recorded. Serum samples from each patient were collected every 2 days during their hospitalization. NP-specific IgM and IgG responses as well as Gn or Gc-specific IgM responses were examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), whereas, the dynamic viral loads of SFTSV RNA were quantified via real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).First, 77% of patients generated positive NP-specific IgM antibody responses within two weeks since illness onset, defined as ‘N-specific IgM-positive patients’, while the rest of the patients were termed as ‘N-specific IgM-delayed patients’. Only 17% of the patients generated NP-specific IgG responses. The absence of NP-specific humoral responses was strongly associated with a high risk of fatality and severity of SFTS. IgM-positive patients had significantly lower levels of viral loads, less disturbed coagulopathy, and hepatic and cardiac damage compared to IgM-delayed patients. Moreover, compared to severe or fatal SFTS patients, mild SFTS patients had significantly higher magnitudes of NP-specific IgM responses, but not NP-specific IgG, Gn-specific IgM, or Gc-specific IgM responses. The abundance of NP-specific IgM responses negatively correlated with viral loads, coagulation disturbances, and hepatic injuries among SFTS patients.Our data highlight distinct humoral profiles of NP-specific IgM responses among SFTS patients with different disease progressions and clinical outcomes.