Objectives Our aim was to evaluate systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease activity and SARS-CoV-2-specific immune responses after BNT162b2 vaccination.
Methods In this prospective study, disease activity and clinical assessments were recorded from the first dose of vaccine until day 15 after the second dose in 126 patients with SLE. SARS-CoV-2 antibody responses were measured against wild-type spike antigen, while serum-neutralising activity was assessed against the SARS-CoV-2 historical strain and variants of concerns (VOCs). Vaccine-specific T cell responses were quantified by interferon-γ release assay after the second dose.
Results BNT162b2 was well tolerated and no statistically significant variations of BILAG (British Isles Lupus Assessment Group) and SLEDAI (SLE Disease Activity Index) scores were observed throughout the study in patients with SLE with active and inactive disease at baseline. Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) and methotrexate (MTX) treatments were associated with drastically reduced BNT162b2 antibody response (β=−78, p=0.007; β=−122, p<0.001, respectively). Anti-spike antibody response was positively associated with baseline total immunoglobulin G serum levels, naïve B cell frequencies (β=2, p=0.018; β=2.5, p=0.003) and SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response (r=0.462, p=0.003). In responders, serum neutralisation activity decreased against VOCs bearing the E484K mutation but remained detectable in a majority of patients.
Conclusion MMF, MTX and poor baseline humoral immune status, particularly low naïve B cell frequencies, are independently associated with impaired BNT162b2 mRNA antibody response, delineating patients with SLE who might need adapted vaccine regimens and follow-up.
SARS-CoV-2-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies were measured as previously described.28 Serum samples were tested with the Maverick SARS-CoV-2 Multi-Antigen Serology Panel (Genalyte, USA) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The panel is designed to detect antibodies to five SARS-CoV-2 antigens: nucleocapsid, spike S1 receptor binding domain (RBD), spike S1S2, spike S2 and spike S1, within a multiplex format based on photonic ring resonance technology. Briefly, 10 µL of each serum sample was added to a sample well plate array containing required diluents and buffers, and the plate and chip were loaded in the instrument for chip equilibration with the diluent buffer to measure baseline resonance. The serum sample was then charged over the chip to bind specific antibodies to antigens present on the chip. The chip was then washed to remove low-affinity binders, and specific antibodies were detected with anti-IgG secondary antibodies.