T-cell recovery and evidence of persistent immune activation 12 months after severe COVID-19
- Journal Article
Background T-cell lymphopenia and functional impairment is a hallmark of severe acute coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). How T-cell numbers and function evolve at later timepoints after clinical recovery remains poorly investigated. Methods We prospectively enrolled and longitudinally sampled 173 individuals with asymptomatic to critical COVID-19 and analyzed phenotypic and functional characteristics of T cells using flow cytometry, 40-parameter mass cytometry, targeted proteomics, and functional assays. Results The extensive T-cell lymphopenia observed particularly in patients with severe COVID-19 during acute infection had recovered 6 months after infection, which was accompanied by a normalization of functional T-cell responses to common viral antigens. We detected persisting CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell activation up to 12 months after infection, in patients with mild and severe COVID-19, as measured by increased HLA-DR and CD38 expression on these cells. Persistent T-cell activation after COVID-19 was independent of administration of a COVID-19 vaccine post-infection. Furthermore, we identified a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 that presented with persistently low CD8+ T-cell counts at follow-up and exhibited a distinct phenotype during acute infection consisting of a dysfunctional T-cell response and signs of excessive pro-inflammatory cytokine production. Conclusion Our study suggests that T-cell numbers and function recover in most patients after COVID-19. However, we find evidence of persistent T-cell activation up to 12 months after infection and describe a subgroup of severe COVID-19 patients with persistently low CD8+ T-cell counts exhibiting a dysregulated immune response during acute infection. Show more
Journal / seriesAllergy
Pages / Article No.
SubjectCOVID-19; follow-up; recovery; SARS-CoV-2; T cells
Organisational unit09735 - Bodenmiller, Bernd / Bodenmiller, Bernd
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