The COVID-19 pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is ongoing and has shown the community that flexible methods for rapidly identifying and screening candidate antivirals are needed. Assessing virus-neutralizing activity of human serum to monitor population immunity and response to infection and vaccination is key to pandemic control. We developed a virus neutralization platform strategy that relies only on bioinformatic and genetic information of the virus of interest. The platform uses viral envelope glycoprotein cDNAs to set up an assay that mimics multicycle infection but is safe and, therefore, amenable to biosafety level 2 (BSL2) conditions for viruses that require BSL3 facilities (e.g., SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2). As a complement to this platform, we present a new cell-based immunofluorescent (CBI) assay that uses SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (S)-expressing cells to accurately measure the neutralization potential of human sera and is readily adaptable to variants of concern. These methods should be useful additions to the tools for assessing antiviral immunity, whether acquired via natural infection or vaccines.
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