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EBioMedicine ; 57: 102885, 2020 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-633885


BACKGROUND: Elucidating the role of T cell responses in COVID-19 is of utmost importance to understand the clearance of SARS-CoV-2 infection. METHODS: 30 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 60 age- and gender-matched healthy controls (HC) participated in this study. We used two comprehensive 11-colour flow cytometric panels conforming to Good Laboratory Practice and approved for clinical diagnostics. FINDINGS: Absolute numbers of lymphocyte subsets were differentially decreased in COVID-19 patients according to clinical severity. In severe disease (SD) patients, all lymphocyte subsets were reduced, whilst in mild disease (MD) NK, NKT and γδ T cells were at the level of HC. Additionally, we provide evidence of T cell activation in MD but not SD, when compared to HC. Follow up samples revealed a marked increase in effector T cells and memory subsets in convalescing but not in non-convalescing patients. INTERPRETATION: Our data suggest that activation and expansion of innate and adaptive lymphocytes play a major role in COVID-19. Additionally, recovery is associated with formation of T cell memory as suggested by the missing formation of effector and central memory T cells in SD but not in MD. Understanding T cell-responses in the context of clinical severity might serve as foundation to overcome the lack of effective anti-viral immune response in severely affected COVID-19 patients and can offer prognostic value as biomarker for disease outcome and control. FUNDING: Funded by State of Lower Saxony grant 14-76,103-184CORONA-11/20 and German Research Foundation, Excellence Strategy - EXC2155"RESIST"-Project ID39087428, and DFG-SFB900/3-Project ID158989968, grants SFB900-B3, SFB900-B8.

Betacoronavirus/immunology , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , Coronavirus Infections/immunology , Lymphocyte Activation/immunology , Pneumonia, Viral/immunology , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Biomarkers , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/cytology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/cytology , COVID-19 , Female , Humans , Immunologic Memory/immunology , Lymphocyte Count , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Prognosis , SARS-CoV-2 , Severity of Illness Index , Young Adult