Robust SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity is maintained at 6 months following primary infection

Jianmin Zuo, Alexander C. Dowell, Hayden Pearce, Kriti Verma, Heather M. Long, Jusnara Begum, Felicity Aiano, Zahin Amin-Chowdhury, Bassam Hallis, Lorrain Stapley, Raymond Borrow, Ezra Linley, Shazaad Ahmad, Ben Parker, Alex Horsley, Gayatri Amirthalingam, Kevin Brown, Mary Ramsay, Shamez Ladhani, Paul Moss*Katja Hoschler, Tim Brooks, Stephen Taylor, Jacqueline Hewson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Citations (Scopus)


The immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is critical in controlling disease, but there is concern that waning immunity may predispose to reinfection. We analyzed the magnitude and phenotype of the SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response in 100 donors at 6 months following infection. T cell responses were present by ELISPOT and/or intracellular cytokine staining analysis in all donors and characterized by predominant CD4(+) T cell responses with strong interleukin (IL)-2 cytokine expression. Median T cell responses were 50% higher in donors who had experienced a symptomatic infection, indicating that the severity of primary infection establishes a 'set point' for cellular immunity. T cell responses to spike and nucleoprotein/membrane proteins were correlated with peak antibody levels. Furthermore, higher levels of nucleoprotein-specific T cells were associated with preservation of nucleoprotein-specific antibody level although no such correlation was observed in relation to spike-specific responses. In conclusion, our data are reassuring that functional SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses are retained at 6 months following infection.

The contribution of T cells to the SARS-CoV-2 response remains an important and unresolved question. Moss and colleagues examine T cell and antibody kinetics in a large cohort of patients with COVID-19 and find robust and durable T cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-626
Number of pages14
JournalNature Immunology
Issue number5
Early online date5 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors would like to thank the staff in the Virus Reference Division at PHE Colindale, who provided testing and contributed to antibody assay development. This work was partly funded by UK Research and Innovation/National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) through the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC). K.V. is supported by Blood Cancer UK (grant no. 17009) and A.D. is supported by the Medical Research Council (grant no. MR/R011230/1). This research was carried out with the support of the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility. B.P. and A.H. are supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK National Health Service, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Open Access: No Open Access

Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc. part of Springer Nature.

Citation: Zuo, J., Dowell, A.C., Pearce, H. et al. Robust SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity is maintained at 6 months following primary infection. Nat Immunol 22, 620–626 (2021).



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