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Seaman, William T.; Keener, Olive; Mei, Wenwen; Mollan, Katie R.; Jones, Corbin D.; Pettifor, Audrey E.; Bowman, Natalie M.; Wang, Frank; & Webster-Cyriaque, Jennifer (Preprint). Oral Sars-Cov-2 Host Responses Predict the Early COVID-19 Disease Course. Research Square. PMCID: PMC10462189


Objectives: Oral fluids provide ready detection of Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and host responses. This study sought to determine relationships between oral virus, oral anti-SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies, and symptoms.
Methods: Saliva/throat wash (saliva/TW) were collected from asymptomatic and symptomatic, nasopharyngeal (NP) SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR+, subjects (n=47). SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR, N-antigen detection by immunoblot and lateral flow assay (LFA) were performed. RT-qPCR targeting viral subgenomic RNA (sgRNA) was sequence confirmed. SARS-CoV-2-anti-S protein RBD LFA assessed IgM and IgG responses. Structural analysis identified host salivary molecules analogous to SARS-CoV-2-N-antigen. Statistical analyses were performed.
Results: At baseline, LFA-detected N-antigen was immunoblot-confirmed in 82% of TW. However, only 3/17 were saliva/TW qPCR+. Sixty percent of saliva and 83% of TW demonstrated persistent N-antigen at 4 weeks. N-antigen LFA signal in three negative subjects suggested potential cross-detection of 4 structurally analogous salivary RNA binding proteins (alignment 19-29aa, RMSD 1-1.5 Angstroms). At entry, symptomatic subjects demonstrated replication-associated sgRNA junctions, were IgG+ (94%/100% in saliva/TW), and IgM+ (75%/63%). At 4 weeks, SARS-CoV-2 IgG (100%/83%) and IgM (80%/67%) persisted. Oral IgG correlated 100% with NP+PCR status. Cough and fatigue severity (p=0.0008 and 0.016), and presence of nausea, weakness, and composite upper respiratory symptoms (p=0.005, 0.037 and 0.017) were negatively associated with oral IgM. Female oral IgM levels were higher than male (p=0.056).
Conclusion : Important to transmission and disease course, oral viral replication and persistence showed clear relationships with select symptoms, early Ig responses, and gender during early infection. N-antigen cross-reactivity may reflect mimicry of structurally analogous host proteins.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Research Square


Seaman, William T.
Keener, Olive
Mei, Wenwen
Mollan, Katie R.
Jones, Corbin D.
Pettifor, Audrey E.
Bowman, Natalie M.
Wang, Frank
Webster-Cyriaque, Jennifer

Article Type





United States


North Carolina


Pettifor - 0000-0002-3387-0817