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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 ; 592(7854): 438-443, 2021 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1164876


Continued uncontrolled transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in many parts of the world is creating conditions for substantial evolutionary changes to the virus1,2. Here we describe a newly arisen lineage of SARS-CoV-2 (designated 501Y.V2; also known as B.1.351 or 20H) that is defined by eight mutations in the spike protein, including three substitutions (K417N, E484K and N501Y) at residues in its receptor-binding domain that may have functional importance3-5. This lineage was identified in South Africa after the first wave of the epidemic in a severely affected metropolitan area (Nelson Mandela Bay) that is located on the coast of the Eastern Cape province. This lineage spread rapidly, and became dominant in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces within weeks. Although the full import of the mutations is yet to be determined, the genomic data-which show rapid expansion and displacement of other lineages in several regions-suggest that this lineage is associated with a selection advantage that most plausibly results from increased transmissibility or immune escape6-8.

COVID-19/virology , Mutation , Phylogeny , Phylogeography , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/transmission , DNA Mutational Analysis , Evolution, Molecular , Genetic Fitness , Humans , Immune Evasion , Models, Molecular , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Selection, Genetic , South Africa/epidemiology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Time Factors