Investigating the utility of COVID-19 antibody testing in end-stage renal disease patients receiving haemodialysis: a cohort study in the United Kingdom

Olivia Wickens, Rajkumar Chinnadurai, Fahmida Mannan, Frida Svendsen, Mirza Yasar Baig, Chukwuma Chukwu, Ibrahim Ali, Christina Summersgill, Dawn Evans, Berckley V. Antoine, Julie Oxton, Nathan Mairs, Emma Flanagan, Robert Oliver, Philip A. Kalra, Dimitrios Poulikakos

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End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients receiving haemodialysis (HD) are a vulnerable group of patients with increased mortality from COVID-19. Despite improved understanding, the duration of host immunity following COVID-19 infection and role of serological testing alone or in addition to real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) testing in the HD population is not fully understood, which this study aimed to investigate.

There were two parts to this study. Between 15th March 2020 to 15th July 2020, patients receiving HD who tested positive on rRT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2 were recruited into the COVID-19 arm, whilst asymptomatic patients without a previous diagnosis of COVID-19 were recruited to the epidemiological arm of the Salford Kidney Study (SKS). All patients underwent monthly testing for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies as per routine clinical practice since August 2020. The aims were twofold: firstly, to determine seroprevalence and COVID-19 exposure in the epidemiological arm; secondly, to assess duration of the antibody response in the COVID-19 arm. Baseline characteristics were reviewed between groups. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS. Mann-Whitney U and Chi-squared tests were used for testing significance of difference between groups.

In our total HD population of 411 patients, 32 were PCR-positive for COVID-19. Of the remaining patients, 237 were recruited into the SKS study, of whom 12 (5.1%) had detectable anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Of the 32 PCR-positive patients, 27 (84.4%) were symptomatic and 25 patients admitted to hospital due to their symptoms. Of the 22 patients in COVID-19 arm that underwent testing for anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies beyond 7 months, all had detectable antibodies.

A higher proportion of the patients with COVID-19 were frail compared to patients without a diagnosis of COVID-19 (64.3% vs 34.1%, p = 0.003). Other characteristics were similar between the groups. Over a median follow up of 7 months, a higher number of deaths were recorded in patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19 compared to those without (18.7% vs 5.9%, p = 0.003).

Serological testing in the HD population is a valuable tool to determine seroprevalence, monitor exposure, and guide improvements for infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to help prevent local outbreaks. This study revealed HD patients mount a humoral response detectable until at least 7 months after COVID-19 infection and provides hope of similar protection with the vaccines recently approved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Nephrology
Issue number1
Early online date27 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2021


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