SARS-CoV-2 elicits robust adaptive immune responses regardless of disease severity

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Background: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic currently prevails worldwide. To understand the immunological signature of SARS-CoV-2 infections and aid the search and evaluation of new treatment modalities and vaccines, comprehensive characterization of adaptive immune responses towards SARS-CoV-2 is needed.
Methods: We included 203 recovered SARS-CoV-2 infected patients in Denmark between April 3rd and July 9th 2020, at least 14 days after COVID-19 symptom recovery. The participants had experienced a range of disease severities from asymptomatic to severe. We collected plasma, serum and PBMC's for analysis of SARS-CoV-2 specific antibody response by Meso Scale analysis including other coronavirus strains, ACE2 competition, IgA ELISA, pseudovirus neutralization capacity, and dextramer flow cytometry analysis of CD8+ T cells. The immunological outcomes were compared amongst severity groups within the cohort, and 10 pre-pandemic SARS-CoV-2 negative controls.
Findings: We report broad serological profiles within the cohort, detecting antibody binding to other human coronaviruses. 202(>99%) participants had SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies, with SARS-CoV-2 neutralization and spike-ACE2 receptor interaction blocking observed in 193(95%) individuals. A significant positive correlation (r=0.7804) between spike-ACE2 blocking antibody titers and neutralization potency was observed. Further, SARS-CoV-2 specific CD8+ T-cell responses were clear and quantifiable in 95 of 106(90%) HLA-A2+ individuals.
Interpretation: The viral surface spike protein was identified as the dominant target for both neutralizing antibodies and CD8+ T-cell responses. Overall, the majority of patients had robust adaptive immune responses, regardless of their disease severity.
Funding: This study was supported by the Danish Ministry for Research and Education (grant# 0238-00001B) and The Danish Innovation Fund (grant# 0208-00018B)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2021

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