DOI: 10.3390/pathogens12070862 ISSN: 2076-0817

The Importance of Measuring SARS-CoV-2-Specific T-Cell Responses in an Ongoing Pandemic

Linda Petrone, Alessandro Sette, Rory D. de Vries, Delia Goletti
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Allergy

Neutralizing antibodies are considered a correlate of protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19, although they are not the only contributing factor to immunity: T-cell responses are considered important in protecting against severe COVID-19 and contributing to the success of vaccination effort. T-cell responses after vaccination largely mirror those of natural infection in magnitude and functional capacity, but not in breadth, as T-cells induced by vaccination exclusively target the surface spike glycoprotein. T-cell responses offer a long-lived line of defense and, unlike humoral responses, largely retain reactivity against the SARS-CoV-2 variants. Given the increasingly recognized role of T-cell responses in protection against severe COVID-19, the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and the potential implementation of novel vaccines, it becomes imperative to continuously monitor T-cell responses. In addition to “classical” T-cell assays requiring the isolation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, simple whole-blood-based interferon-γ release assays have a potential role in routine T-cell response monitoring. These assays could be particularly useful for immunocompromised people and other clinically vulnerable populations, where interactions between cellular and humoral immunity are complex. As we continue to live alongside COVID-19, the importance of considering immunity as a whole, incorporating both humoral and cellular responses, is crucial.

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