The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed an overwhelming burden on the healthcare system, and caused major disruption to the world economy. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus that leads to a variety of symptoms in humans, including cough, fever and respiratory failure. SARS-CoV-2 infection can trigger extensive immune responses, including the production of antibodies. The detection of antibody response by serological testing provides a supplementary diagnostic tool to molecular tests. We hereby present a succinct yet comprehensive review on the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, as well as molecular mechanisms behind the strengths and limitations of serological antibody tests. The presence of antibodies can be detected in patient sera within days post symptom onset. Serological tests demonstrate superior sensitivity to molecular tests in some periods of time during disease development. Compared with the molecular tests, serological tests can be used for point-of-care testing, providing faster results at a lower cost. Commercially available serological tests show variable sensitivity and specificity, and the molecular basis of these variabilities are analysed. We discuss assays of different complexities that are used to specifically quantitate neutralising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, which has important implications for vaccine development and herd immunity. Furthermore, we discuss examples of successful applications of serological tests to contact tracing and community-level sero-surveying, which provide invaluable information for pandemic management and assessment.

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