Articles Immunology Articles

Functional SARS-CoV-2-specific Immune Memory Persists After Mild COVID-19

Published time: 13 August 2020

Authors: Lauren B. Rodda, Jason Netland, Laila Shehata, Kurt B. Pruner, Peter A. Morawski, Chris Thouvenel, Kennidy K. Takehara, Julie Eggenberger, Emily Hemann, Hayley R. Waterman, Mitchell L. Fahning, Yu Chen, Jennifer Rathe, Caleb Stokes, Samuel Wrenn, Brooke Fiala, Lauren Carter, Jessica A. Hamerman, Neil P. King, Michael Gale Jr, Daniel J. Campbell, David Rawlings, Marion Pepper

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, lymphocytes, immunology, IFN-γ


The recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently causing a global pandemic and cases continue to rise. The majority of infected individuals experience mildly symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but it is unknown whether this can induce persistent immune memory that might contribute to herd immunity. Thus, we performed a longitudinal assessment of individuals recovered from mildly symptomatic COVID-19 to determine if they develop and sustain immunological memory against the virus. We found that recovered individuals developed SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG antibody and neutralizing plasma, as well as virus-specific memory B and T cells that not only persisted, but in some cases increased numerically over three months following symptom onset. Furthermore, the SARS-CoV-2-specific memory lymphocytes exhibited characteristics associated with potent antiviral immunity: memory T cells secreted IFN-γ and expanded upon antigen re-encounter, while memory B cells expressed receptors capable of neutralizing virus when expressed as antibodies. These findings demonstrate that mild COVID-19 elicits memory lymphocytes that persist and display functional hallmarks associated with antiviral protective immunity.

Functional SARS-CoV-2-specific immune memory persists after mild COVID-19



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