Lymphopenia-induced T cell proliferation is a hallmark of severe COVID-19
Miro E. Raeber,
Lars C. Huber,
Dominik J. Schaer,
Posted 04 Aug 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.04.236521
Posted 04 Aug 2020
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has a broad clinical presentation ranging from asymptomatic infection to fatal disease. Different features associated with the immune response to SARS-CoV-2, such as hyperinflammation and reduction of peripheral CD8+ T cell counts are strongly associated with severe disease. Here, we confirm the reduction in peripheral CD8+ T cells both in relative and absolute terms and identify T cell apoptosis and migration into inflamed tissues as possible mechanisms driving peripheral T cell lymphopenia. Furthermore, we find evidence of elevated serum interleukin-7, thus indicating systemic T cell paucity and signs of increased T cell proliferation in patients with severe lymphopenia. Following T cell lymphopenia in our pseudo-longitudinal time course, we observed expansion and recovery of poly-specific antiviral T cells, thus arguing for lymphopenia-induced T cell proliferation. In summary, this study suggests that extensive T cell loss and subsequent T cell proliferation are characteristic of severe COVID-19. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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