Govender M, Hopkins FR, Göransson R, Svanberg C, Shankar EM, Hjorth M, Nilsdotter-Augustinsson Å, Sjöwall J, Nyström S, Larsson M
Front Immunol 13 (-) 931039 [2022-08-08; online 2022-08-08]
COVID-19 is being extensively studied, and much remains unknown regarding the long-term consequences of the disease on immune cells. The different arms of the immune system are interlinked, with humoral responses and the production of high-affinity antibodies being largely dependent on T cell immunity. Here, we longitudinally explored the effect COVID-19 has on T cell populations and the virus-specific T cells, as well as neutralizing antibody responses, for 6-7 months following hospitalization. The CD8+ TEMRA and exhausted CD57+ CD8+ T cells were markedly affected with elevated levels that lasted long into convalescence. Further, markers associated with T cell activation were upregulated at inclusion, and in the case of CD69+ CD4+ T cells this lasted all through the study duration. The levels of T cells expressing negative immune checkpoint molecules were increased in COVID-19 patients and sustained for a prolonged duration following recovery. Within 2-3 weeks after symptom onset, all COVID-19 patients developed anti-nucleocapsid IgG and spike-neutralizing IgG as well as SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses. In addition, we found alterations in follicular T helper (TFH) cell populations, such as enhanced TFH-TH2 following recovery from COVID-19. Our study revealed significant and long-term alterations in T cell populations and key events associated with COVID-19 pathogenesis.