Serum per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance concentrations and longitudinal change in post-infection and post-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 antibodies

James Hollister, Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, Katherine D. Ellingson, Shawn Beitel, Ashley L. Fowlkes, Karen Lutrick, Harmony L. Tyner, Allison L. Naleway, Sarang K. Yoon, Manjusha Gaglani, Danielle Hunt, Jennifer Meece, Julie Mayo Lamberte, Natasha Schaefer Solle, Spencer Rose, Kayan Dunnigan, Sana M. Khan, Jennifer L. Kuntz, Julia M. Fisher, Alissa ColemanAmadea Britton, Matthew S. Thiese, Kurt T. Hegmann, Marian Pavuk, Ferris A. Ramadan, Sammantha Fuller, Amy Nematollahi, Ryan Sprissler, Jefferey L. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous throughout the United States. Previous studies have shown PFAS exposure to be associated with a reduced immune response. However, the relationship between serum PFAS and antibody levels following SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 vaccination has not been examined. We examined differences in peak immune response and the longitudinal decline of antibodies following SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccination by serum PFAS levels in a cohort of essential workers in the United States. We measured serum antibodies using an in-house semi-quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Two cohorts contributed blood samples following SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 vaccination. We used linear mixed regression models, adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, gender, presence of chronic conditions, location, and occupation, to estimate differences in immune response with respect to serum PFAS levels. Our study populations included 153 unvaccinated participants that contributed 316 blood draws over a 14-month period following infection, and 860 participants and 2451 blood draws over a 12-month period following vaccination. Higher perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) concentrations were associated with a lower peak antibody response after infection (p = 0.009, 0.031, 0.015). Higher PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), PFHxS, and PFNA concentrations were associated with slower declines in antibodies over time after infection (p = 0.003, 0.014, 0.026, 0.025). PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, and PFNA serum concentrations prior to vaccination were not associated with differences in peak antibody response after vaccination or with differences in decline of antibodies over time after vaccination. These results suggest that elevated PFAS may impede potential immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection by blunting peak antibody levels following infection; the same finding was not observed for immune response to vaccination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117297
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Dec 15 2023


  • COVID-19 vaccine
  • Immune response
  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • SARS CoV-2 infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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