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OBJECTIVES: Many regions of Africa have experienced lower COVID-19 morbidity and mortality than Europe. Pre-existing humoral responses to endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) may cross-protect against SARS-CoV-2. We investigated the neutralizing capacity of SARS-CoV-2 spike reactive and nonreactive immunoglobulin (Ig)G and IgA antibodies in prepandemic samples. METHODS: To investigate the presence of pre-existing immunity, we performed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using spike antigens from reference SARS-CoV-2, HCoV HKU1, OC43, NL63, and 229E using prepandemic samples from Kilifi in coastal Kenya. In addition, we performed neutralization assays using pseudotyped reference SARS-CoV-2 to determine the functionality of the identified reactive antibodies. RESULTS: We demonstrate the presence of HCoV serum IgG and mucosal IgA antibodies, which cross-react with the SARS-CoV-2 spike. We show pseudotyped reference SARS-CoV-2 neutralization by prepandemic serum, with a mean infective dose 50 of 1: 251, which is 10-fold less than that of the pooled convalescent sera from patients with COVID-19 but still within predicted protection levels. The prepandemic naso-oropharyngeal fluid neutralized pseudo-SARS-CoV-2 at a mean infective dose 50 of 1: 5.9 in the neutralization assay. CONCLUSION: Our data provide evidence for pre-existing functional humoral responses to SARS-CoV-2 in Kilifi, coastal Kenya and adds to data showing pre-existing immunity for COVID-19 from other regions.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Infect Dis

Publication Date





11 - 16


Human coronaviruses, Pre-existing antibodies, SARS-CoV-2, Spike proteins, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, SARS-CoV-2, Kenya, COVID-19, COVID-19 Serotherapy, Immunoglobulin A, Antibodies, Viral