Characterization of the naturally acquired B and T cell immune responses to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is important for the development of public health and vaccination strategies to manage the burden of COVID-19 disease. We conducted a prospective, cross-sectional analysis in COVID-19 recovered patients at various time points over a 10-month period in order to investigate how circulating antibody levels and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) release by peripheral blood cells change over time following natural infection. From March 2020 till January 2021, we enrolled 412 adults mostly with mild or moderate disease course. At each study visit, subjects donated peripheral blood for testing of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies and IFN-γ release after SARS-CoV-2 S-protein stimulation. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies were positive in 316 of 412 (76.7%) and borderline in 31 of 412 (7.5%) patients. Our confirmation assay for the presence of neutralizing antibodies was positive in 215 of 412 (52.2%) and borderline in 88 of 412 (21.4%) patients. Likewise, in 274 of 412 (66.5%) positive IFN-γ release and IgG antibodies were detected. With respect to time after infection, both IgG antibody levels and IFN-γ concentrations decreased by about half within 300 days. Statistically, production of IgG and IFN-γ were closely associated, but on an individual basis, we observed patients with high-antibody titres but low IFN-γ levels and vice versa. Our data suggest that immunological reaction is acquired in most individuals after natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 and is sustained in the majority of patients for at least 10 months after infection after a mild or moderate disease course. Since, so far, no robust marker for protection against COVID-19 exists, we recommend utilizing both, IgG and IFN-γ release for an individual assessment of the immunity status.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)
Coronavirus related work
- Research on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19