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Sci Transl Med ; 14(631): eabj6824, 2022 Feb 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1685482


SARS-CoV-2 variants that escape neutralization and potentially affect vaccine efficacy have emerged. T cell responses play a role in protection from reinfection and severe disease, but the potential for spike mutations to affect T cell immunity is incompletely understood. We assessed neutralizing antibody and T cell responses in 44 South African COVID-19 patients either infected with the Beta variant (dominant from November 2020 to May 2021) or infected before its emergence (first wave, Wuhan strain) to provide an overall measure of immune evasion. We show that robust spike-specific CD4 and CD8 T cell responses were detectable in Beta-infected patients, similar to first-wave patients. Using peptides spanning the Beta-mutated regions, we identified CD4 T cell responses targeting the wild-type peptides in 12 of 22 first-wave patients, all of whom failed to recognize corresponding Beta-mutated peptides. However, responses to mutated regions formed only a small proportion (15.7%) of the overall CD4 response, and few patients (3 of 44) mounted CD8 responses that targeted the mutated regions. Among the spike epitopes tested, we identified three epitopes containing the D215, L18, or D80 residues that were specifically recognized by CD4 T cells, and their mutated versions were associated with a loss of response. This study shows that despite loss of recognition of immunogenic CD4 epitopes, CD4 and CD8 T cell responses to Beta are preserved overall. These observations may explain why several vaccines have retained the ability to protect against severe COVID-19 even with substantial loss of neutralizing antibody activity against Beta.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antibodies, Viral , Epitopes , Humans , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics
Nature ; 603(7901): 488-492, 2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1661968


The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has multiple spike protein mutations1,2 that contribute to viral escape from antibody neutralization3-6 and reduce vaccine protection from infection7,8. The extent to which other components of the adaptive response such as T cells may still target Omicron and contribute to protection from severe outcomes is unknown. Here we assessed the ability of T cells to react to Omicron spike protein in participants who were vaccinated with Ad26.CoV2.S or BNT162b2, or unvaccinated convalescent COVID-19 patients (n = 70). Between 70% and 80% of the CD4+ and CD8+ T cell response to spike was maintained across study groups. Moreover, the magnitude of Omicron cross-reactive T cells was similar for Beta (B.1.351) and Delta (B.1.617.2) variants, despite Omicron harbouring considerably more mutations. In patients who were hospitalized with Omicron infections (n = 19), there were comparable T cell responses to ancestral spike, nucleocapsid and membrane proteins to those in patients hospitalized in previous waves dominated by the ancestral, Beta or Delta variants (n = 49). Thus, despite extensive mutations and reduced susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies of Omicron, the majority of T cell responses induced by vaccination or infection cross-recognize the variant. It remains to be determined whether well-preserved T cell immunity to Omicron contributes to protection from severe COVID-19 and is linked to early clinical observations from South Africa and elsewhere9-12.

COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/virology , Cross Reactions/immunology , Immunity, Cellular , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , T-Lymphocytes/immunology , Adult , Aged , COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , Convalescence , Hospitalization , Humans , Middle Aged , SARS-CoV-2/chemistry , SARS-CoV-2/classification
Cell Host Microbe ; 29(11): 1611-1619.e5, 2021 11 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1466221


The Johnson and Johnson Ad26.COV2.S single-dose vaccine represents an attractive option for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination in countries with limited resources. We examined the effect of prior infection with different SARS-CoV-2 variants on Ad26.COV2.S immunogenicity. We compared participants who were SARS-CoV-2 naive with those either infected with the ancestral D614G virus or infected in the second wave when Beta predominated. Prior infection significantly boosts spike-binding antibodies, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, and neutralizing antibodies against D614G, Beta, and Delta; however, neutralization cross-reactivity varied by wave. Robust CD4 and CD8 T cell responses are induced after vaccination, regardless of prior infection. T cell recognition of variants is largely preserved, apart from some reduction in CD8 recognition of Delta. Thus, Ad26.COV2.S vaccination after infection could result in enhanced protection against COVID-19. The impact of the infecting variant on neutralization breadth after vaccination has implications for the design of second-generation vaccines based on variants of concern.

COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Vaccination , Adult , Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Viral/blood , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , T-Lymphocytes/immunology