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Development of monoclonal antibody-based blocking ELISA for detecting SARS-CoV-2 exposure in animals

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The global pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses a significant threat to public health. Besides humans, SARS-CoV-2 can infect several animal species. Highly sensitive and specific diagnostic reagents and assays are urgently needed for rapid detection and implementation of strategies for prevention and control of the infection in animals. In this study, we initially developed a panel of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein. To detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in a broad spectrum of animal species, an mAb-based blocking enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (bELISA) was developed. Test validation using a set of animal serum samples with known infection status obtained an optimal percentage of inhibition cut-off value of 17.6% with diagnostic sensitivity of 97.8% and diagnostic specificity of 98.9%. The assay demonstrates high repeatability as determined by a low coefficient of variation (7.23%, 4.89%, and 3.16%) between-runs, within-run, and within-plate, respectively. Testing of samples collected over time from experimentally infected cats showed that the bELISA was able to detect seroconversion as early as 7 days post-infection. Subsequently, the bELISA was applied for testing pet animals with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-like symptoms and specific antibody responses were detected in two dogs. The panel of mAbs generated in this study provides a valuable tool for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and research. The mAb-based bELISA provides a serological test in aid of COVID-19 surveillance in animals.

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