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Impaired T cell functions along with elevated activated Tregs at the early stage of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection

By Jingyi Yang, Ejuan Zhang, Maohua Zhong, Qingyu Yang, Ke Hong, Ting Shu, Dihan Zhou, Jie Xiang, Jianbo Xia, Xi Zhou, Dingyu Zhang, Chaolin Huang, You Shang, Huimin Yan

Posted 26 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.25.20108852

Background Limited data are available on the T cell responses for the asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection case. Methods The first imported SARS-CoV-2 infection case in Wuhan was admitted in hospital for quarantine and observation. The T cell responses were followed up by flow cytometry analysis of the peripheral blood nonnuclear cells (PBMCs) at days 7, 13, 22, and 28 after admission. Findings We found the first imported SARS-CoV-2 infection in Wuhan is an asymptomatic case. His T cell differentiation, proliferation and activation matched the classical kinetics of T cell responses induced by viral infection, but the activation maintained at a relatively low level. Function analysis indicated frequencies of IFN-{gamma} producing CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were notably lower than that of the healthy controls (HC) at day 7, and then rebound gradually. But IFN-{gamma}+CD8+ T cells were detained at a significant lower level even at day 28, when the SARS-CoV-2 virus had already become undetectable for 3 weeks. Moreover, percentage of IL-17 producing CD4+ T cells was also detained constantly at a much lower level compared to HC. At day 7, although percentage of Tregs was in normal range, the frequency of activated Treg (aTreg) was remarkably as high as 4.4-fold of that in HC. Interpretation The T cell activation in the asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection experienced a significant suppression and presented impairment of Th1/Th17 and CD8+ T cell functions. Early elevation of the aTregs might play role in the activation and function of T cells in the asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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