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Robust SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell immunity is maintained at 6 months following primary infection

By Jianmin Zuo, Alex Dowell, Hayden Pearce, Kriti Verma, Heather Long, Jusnara Begum, Felicity Aiano, Zahin Amin-Chowdhury, Bassam Hallis, Lorrain Stapley, Ray Borrow, Ezra Linley, Shazaad Ahmad, Ben Parker, Alex R Horsley, Gayatri Amirthalingam, Kevin Brown, Mary E Ramsay, Shamez Ladhani, Paul Moss

Posted 02 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.01.362319

The immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical in both controlling primary infection and preventing re-infection. However, there is concern that immune responses following natural infection may not be sustained and that this may predispose to recurrent infection. We analysed the magnitude and phenotype of the SARS-CoV-2 cellular immune response in 100 donors at six months following primary infection and related this to the profile of antibody level against spike, nucleoprotein and RBD over the previous six months. T-cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 were present by ELISPOT or ICS analysis in all donors and are characterised by predominant CD4+ T cell responses with strong IL-2 cytokine expression. Median T-cell responses were 50% higher in donors who had experienced an initial symptomatic infection indicating that the severity of primary infection establishes a set-point for cellular immunity that lasts for at least 6 months. The T-cell responses to both spike and nucleoprotein/membrane proteins were strongly correlated with the peak antibody level against each protein. The rate of decline in antibody level varied between individuals and higher levels of nucleoprotein-specific T cells were associated with preservation of NP-specific antibody level although no such correlation was observed in relation to spike-specific responses. In conclusion, our data are reassuring that functional SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses are retained at six months following infection although the magnitude of this response is related to the clinical features of primary infection. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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